OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS WAREHOUSE
AMEN CORNER, E.G.
MACMILLAN & CO., 112 FOURTH AVENUK
F. J. SNELL, M.A.
BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
PRINTED AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
BY HORACE HART, PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY
IN introducing this work it is scarcely necessary to
do more than specify one or two of the sources from
which information has been gleaned. Such are the
lectures of Paolo Emiliani-Giudici, which I have found
interesting and instructive, though very discursive ;
and there is an exquisite little work (one of Hoepli's
manuals) by Cesare Fenini, which gives an admirable
resume of the whole subject. Somewhat more practical
is Raffaello Fornaciari's Disegno storico della Lettera-
tura italiana. The generous help and kindly criticism
of Mr. F. York Powell call also for grateful acknow-
This Primer does not profess to present a complete
account of Italian Literature, and it would be idle to
expect unanimous approval of the names inserted or
of those which have been left out. This is, however,
only an elementary work, and it will be easy to supply
inevitable deficiencies from more ambitious volumes.
The book will have fulfilled its object, if it prove
serviceable to those for whom it is primarily designed.
F. J. SNELL.
BAMPTON, N. DEVON :
April 29, 1893.
THE PRECURSORS AND CONTEMPORARIES OF DANTF ... 3
PETRARCH AND BOCCACCIO 31
THE DRAMA AND THE ROMANTIC EPIC ..... 43
THE GOLDEN AGE. THE PROSE-WRITERS .... 54
THE GOLDEN AGE. THE POETS 70
THE GOLDEN AGE. THE DRAMATISTS 83
THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS 98
THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION 114
THE TRAGEDIANS AND MELI 130
THE REVOLUTION AND THE REACTION . . . ... 141
ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM ........ 151
INDEX OF WRITERS .
Page 67, line 16, for sixteenth read fifteenth
117, 10, for seventeenth read sixteenth
Snell s Primer of Italian Literature
As Italy had been the home of the old civilisation, we
might expect that she would be the first to rise, phoenix-like,
from her ashes, and take her place as leader and guide of
the literary movement which sprang up among the peoples
of south-western Europe with the consolidation of the new
states. If such is our expectation, we are deceived. In the
, CHAPTER I.
THE PRECURSORS AND CONTEMPORARIES
AMONG Dante's manifold titles to honour, the highest and
most distinctive is that of being the true founder of Italian
literature. The words must not be misunderstood. They
certainly do not imply that before Dante no one attempted
Italian composition. To assert this would be to falsify
history. It would involve also grave injustice to a number
of writers whose example, no less than his own consciousness
of power, animated Dante to those grand achievements which
have rendered his name immortal. What the phrase does
signify is that Dante, both in verse and prose, is the first of
Italian authors to whom we can fitly apply the term * master/
The efforts of his predecessors and coevals were all, more or
less, tentative, and failed to lift their art wholly out of the
region of experiment. They were groping after a perfection
which was beyond their reach, beyond even their ken, but
which was realised and revealed in the Commedia.
As Italy had been the home of the old civilisation, we
might expect that she would be the first to rise, phoenix-like,
from her ashes, and take her place as leader and guide of
the literary movement which sprang up among the peoples
of south-western Europe with the consolidation of the new
states. If such is our expectation, we are deceived. In the
4 'ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
possession or" a literature she -was forestalled both by France
and Spain, and when at length she does make her debut, it is
in the character of a humble follower of Provence. This
anomaly may be explained partly by political conditions,
which in Italy were less stable than in the sister countries
less propitious, therefore, to the cultivation of letters. But it
should seem also that her post of privilege as fille afae'eof the
Empire was not in this regard beneficial to her. It had a
retarding influence on her rejuvenation. For centuries the
best Italian intellects were usurped by the effete and, for the
mass of the people, unintelligible language of Rome. Litera-
ture was an affair of hieroglyphics. It was confined to a
caste. The only recognised subjects were theology and
jurisprudence. The remembrance of Roman greatness, of
which the faint reflex was still visible in the papacy, was
almost a fatal bar to Italian progress. It drew men's minds
backwards and made them cling to impossible ideals. The
restoration of the Empire, not the unity of Italy, was the
dream of impassioned patriots, and in the millennium to which
their hopes pointed the universal tongue was to be Latin.
How disadvantageously this illusion would affect the status of
the Italian vernacular, is obvious at a glance. It is a wonder
that there was a native literature at all. Even the greatest
minds succumbed to the snare, and by inditing epics in a
dead language, poets prepared a sarcophagus for their reputa-
tions. We shall not be far wrong if we figure to ourselves
the history of Italian literature, during its most significant
epochs, as that of an internecine strife between the Latin and
Italian languages, or, more broadly, between the past and the
The literature of Italy, properly so called, may be described,
with some approach to accuracy, as an organic whole. It
I.] CONTEMPORARIES OF DANTE. 5
had its beginnings somewhere in the thirteenth century in
Sicily, but prior to this there was a burst of literary activity
in the north of Italy, in the Marca Trivigiana. This circum- v
stance is in some danger of being forgotten, and was not
too notorious even in Dante's time. He at least reminds us
that there solea valore e cortesia trovarsi prima che Federigo
avesse briga. Apparently this poetry, imported from Provence,
never quite divested itself of its foreign attributes, but it was
not merely an exotic. It is seen at its best in the romantic
verses, love-lyrics and moral poems, written for the people
and sung by them in their native dialect. . Fragments of these ,
which are being gradually accumulated illustrate the import-
ance of this attempt, which, however, did not ultimately
succeed. The most flourishing period of this Franco-Italian
verse dates from the close of the twelfth to the middle of the
thirteenth century in all about eighty years. Its professors
were styled trovatori, a description which at once stamps them ,
as imitators, though, having been adopted as the equivalent
of ' poet/ it was freely applied to others. Peculiar interest
attaches to one name Sordello. Nothing is really known
respecting him. The contradictory reports which have come
down to us are too absurd to be believed, and what small
kernel of truth there may be in them, it is impossible for even
the wisest to extract. But Dante has helped the trouba-
dour to a renown which he was impotent to achieve for him-
self; and that nothing might be wanting to him, Sordello has
been made the subject of a great English poem by Mr.
It has been said that the cradle of Italian literature was
Sicily. Still more extraordinary, its foster-father was a
Teuton Teuton, that is to say, in origin, for in all else,
education, sympathies, aspirations, he was purely Italian.
6 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
Frederick II (1194-1250), son of Henry IV, and grandson
of the terrible Barbarossa, lost both his parents in infancy.
His mother Constance on dying committed him to the care
of the Pope, Innocent III, who, singularly enough, showed
but scant interest in his ward. The prince, therefore, as he
grew up, imbibed sentiments which harmonized better with
the traditions of his race than the relationship in which he
actually stood to the head of the Church. As the result there
was a complete breach between the two potentates, and one of
the measures to which Frederick resorted in order to weaken
his rival was an elaborate scheme for the secularisation of
learning. Till then knowledge had been a monopoly of the
clergy ; Frederick, by enlarging one university and founding
others, created a new order of lay scholars. With the same
object he wrested poetry from the giullari^ who had degraded
it, and placed it in the more reverent hands of his proteges.
This first epoch of Italian literature has been entitled, after
the dynasty of which Frederick was the representative, Suevic.
Frederick himself took an active part in regenerating poetry,
and was copied by his sons Manfred and Enzo. Other
votaries of the art were Piero delle Vigne, Jacopo da Lentini,
often called the Notary, Guido and Odo dalle Colonne,
Arrigo Testa and Mina, famous for her interchange of rhymes
with Dante of Majano. Nor can we rightly omit Ciullo di
Alcamo, whose dialogue between two lovers was long deemed
to be the oldest specimen of Italian verse.
Necessarily this Sicilian poetry is somewhat rough-hewn.
The peculiar circumstances under which it was produced
have left their marks on it. Latinisms abound. There are
turns and forms of speech, some of them .dialectal, and
others which appear to be borrowed from the French.
The language is not always grammatical. But for all that
I.] CONTEMPORARIES OF DANTE. 7
the poetry has its charm. It is like the utterances of child-
hood, fresh, graceful, and ingenuous, and its subject is love.
Though so remote from what afterwards became the metro-
polis of Italian culture Florence it is not difficult to
account for the early pre-eminence of Sicily in the sphere of
letters. The effect of the Norman conquest was to throw
open the island to French minstrelsy, and the influence of
troubadour and trouvere on the native population would
naturally be great in proportion to the close affinity between
the languages of oc, o'il, and si. One proof of this pre-eminence
is that the term ' Sicilian ' was for a while a synonyme for
standard or polite Italian, and Dante conjectured that it
would be perpetuated in this sense. His prediction turned
out false, but at this we need feel no surprise. It was frus-
trated partly by his own genius, partly by a succession of
calamities which rendered Sicily no longer possible as a
centre of poetical studies.
From Sicily the contagion spread to the mainland, but
without any striking change in the symptoms. A sonnet
written in Tuscany at this time is of much the same character
as a canzonet of Palermo, and regarding their attainments,
the writers are very much on a level. Thus any verdict
which we might pass on Guido dalle Colonne would serve
with slight modifications for Folcacchiero of Siena, Onesto
and Fabrizio of Bologna, Saladino of Pavia, Giraldo of
Castello, Noffo of Oltrarno, or Dante of Majano. In all of
them it is impossible not to recognise tokens of the courtly
and artificial muse of Provence.
The first in whom the fruits of Frederick's policy are
clearly perceptible is Guido Guinicelli. Guinicelli (t 1276)
was the founder of what has been termed the Bolognese
school of poetry, which differed from troubadour rhyme in
8 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
being more learned. What Guinicelli did was this : he took
poetry and wedded it to Platonic philosophy. He harped on
the metaphysics of love, analyzing and examining it in order
to discover its latent properties. In him poetry became
objective. It dealt with love no longer as an inward experi-
ence, but as an external phenomenon. At first this will
hardly commend itself as an improvement. Indeed, such a
mode of treating the grand passion was, in an important sense,
retrograde, violating as it did one of the chief canons of real
poetry which ought, before all, to express feeling.
Looking at the matter as we naturally do from this stand-
point, we of to-day find some difficulty in assenting to the
high praise bestowed on Guinicelli by his contemporaries :
for instance, Buonagiunta of Lucca. Buonagiunta, it is true,
is not altogether insensible to Guinicelli's defects. He calls
him subtle, and rails at his obscurity, but in the very sonnet
in which he gives vent to his discontent with him, the
Lucchese allows that he ' surpasses every other troubadour.'
Even Dante recognised his authority, deigned to borrow from
him, and as if this were not enough, called him ' father ' and
1 best of those who ever used soft and lovely rhymes of love. 7
For us Guinicelli's service to literature consists in this, that
he broke the spell of tradition and gave to poetry a body,
an element of permanence. If Guinicelli, in that he still
clave to love as his theme, did not effect his full emancipation,
others might transcend this limitation. The significant fact
remains that henceforward poetry was no longer necessarily
of a personal nature. It is a matter for regret therefore that
Guinicelli, the inaugurator of the change, was so clearly
deficient in imagination and force, and thereby disqualified
for giving a better direction to his innovating tendencies.
Other alterations, but of minor importance, may be noted in
I.] CONTEMPORARIES OF DANTE. 9
writings of the Bolognese school. There are fewer sugges-
tions of dialect, and it was at this period that a transition
was made from Provenal rhythms to the movement of the
Italian stanza. But owing to the fondness of these poets for
scholastic discussion, they did not attain, or even approach,
their high ideal in the reconcilement of science with art.
As regards Guinicelli's personal history we possess only the
scantiest information. He was born at Bologna of a family
whose style was principe, and he was a Ghibelline, a partisan,
that is to say, of the emperor in his opposition to the pope.
On the defeat of the Lambertazzi faction in 1274, he was
driven into exile, but what afterwards became of him or where
,he died, we do not know.
The next poet of distinction is Guido Cavalcanti, a
Florentine. Most writers on the subject have made of this
latter circumstance a pretext for a digression on Florence,
on the remarkable part which was taken by her in the
development of Italian culture. Attempts have been made to
explain this, now by the charming position of the city on the
banks of the Arno and its girdle of pleasant hills, now by its
soft climate, sometimes by the native shrewdness and energy
of the Florentines which caused one of the popes to describe
them as the fifth element in the universe. In considerations
of this order the effects of climate and situation cannot be
entirely overlooked, though Nature under all her aspects has
been found a fruitful source of inspiration. So too with
intellectual conditions, talent, ' an appetite, a feeling, and
a love ' is a necessary postulate for success in literature.
But it is a question whether any of these, or all these acci-
dents together, afford a complete solution of the problem.
Some regard must certainly be paid to history, and it is
worthy of observation that in Tuscany the invasions of the
10 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
barbarians were few and transient. In later times Florence
clung tenaciously to her institutions showed herself a stead-
fast champion of freedom. In this respect she was always
a generation behind the rest of Italy, yielding at last to
the tide of political degeneracy, but only after a gallant
attempt to maintain her liberties. Apart from Florence, her
republican forms and the fervour of her patriotism, Dante
at least would be inconceivable.
Guido Cavalcanti (t 1300), like the other Guido, was a
Ghibelline, and adopted also, in some measure, Guinicelli's
notions of verse. He belonged to a rich and noble Florentine
family, and in his case a taste for study was hereditary. He
enjoyed the friendship of Dante, who, however, with his
usual impartiality places Cavalcanti' s father, as a disciple of
Epicurus, in hell.
Cavalcanti' s poetry is of a twofold character. He possessed
a genuine poetic temperament, but this did not save him
from being attracted, either by a misguided ambition or the
force of precedent, towards the dull pedantries of Bologna.
It was not, however, a complete surrender. Not all his
poems smack of metaphysics, and if some of his verses com-
posed in imitation of Guinicelli's are coldly scientific, those
in which he abandons himself to the promptings of his own
genius, are radiant with fancy and throb with life. Many of
his sonnets, all the ballads which remain to us, fall to this
second category. The lines which he addressed to his
Mandetta, a lady of whom he was enamoured in a pilgrimage
to Saint James of Galicia, are deliciously tender; and the
pathos of the sonnet on his exile is anything but adscititious,
being inspired by real suffering. The poem, however, for
which Cavalcanti was chiefly famous in his day, is his
canzonet on the Nature of Love. It produced an immense
I.] CONTEMPORARIES OF DANTE. II
sensation, and the most learned philosophers, from Egidio
Colonna, tutor of Philip le Bel, downwards, found an agree-
able occupation in attempting to expound it.
Cavalcanti, who is described as a great spirit, mingled in
the civil commotions which so fatally distracted his native
city, and was banished in the year of Dante's priorate to
Sarzana. His place of exile proved unwholesome, and he was
allowed to return. He died at the end of August in the
same year 1300.
In Cino Sinibaldi (1270-1336), generally called from his
birthplace ' da Pistoia/ we encounter a somewhat different
personage. Although the contemporary of Dante, whom
he survived, intellectually he belongs to the preceding age.
He was not influenced by the great art of Dante, and
his affinities are rather with the Sicilian school than with
that of Bologna. Poet not of reflexion, but of sentiment, Cino,
least of all his coevals, syllogizes in verse. This is scarcely
as we should have expected, since he was deeply versed
in law. The simplicity of his poetry, however, may have
been the fruit of a reaction from severe and possibly distasteful
studies. His verse is Platonic in tone, but whatever philosophy
it contains is innocent of formalism. Unequivocally Cino re-
nounced theory. When one day Cavalcanti taunted him with
plagiarism, Sinibaldi replied in a very sarcastic vein, protesting
that Guido had never written anything worth the stealing.
As for himself, he says, it is evident that he never was an
artist. He is a man di basso ingegno, weeping for a heart
that is gone from this world. Cino, holding exclusively to
the old forms of love-poetry, arrived at such perfection in
them that he is hardly surpassed even by Petrarch. He too
was an ardent Ghibelline.
Mention must be made in the next place of Dante's tutor,
1 2 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
Brunette Latin^ (f 1294) and his Tesoretto. Of the various
sorts of mediaeval composition, the vision had been among
the most popular. It was this tradition which Latino seized
upon, and to which he gave new vogue in the Tesoretto. He
had been despatched by the Republic of Florence to Alfonso,
King of Castile. Whilst he was returning a scholar met him,
from Bologna, and informed him of the expulsion of the
Guelfs, or papal party. Brunetto who, unlike other poets,
favoured their cause, was so overcome with grief that he lost
his way. In seeking to regain it, he found himself he feigns
on the slope of a mountain, and, standing before him, an
ancient and majestic dame whom he recognises as Nature.
Hereupon a long scientific discourse ensues betwixt her and
Latino. The poem has a few other incidents which, however,
we need not stay to particularize.
The Tesoretto, though it is termed a poem, is such only to
the eye. It is written in septenarian couplets naturally
a dull metre which, not being skilfully managed, are
monotonous in the extreme. In it, the Tesoretto, are no
lively images or suggestive metaphors, and it may be
characterized not unfairly as a mould, into which Latino, an
industrious and vain clerk, emptied his superfluous lore. It
has its prose counterpart in the Tesoro, an encyclopaedic
work which Latino composed in French, and which was
translated into Italian by Bono Giamboni. It owed its repu-
tation to the fact that it was written in one of the vernacular
languages which the generality of scholars despised, and for
centuries it was held in the highest esteem. The Tesorelto,
on the contrary, was short-lived. Only when enquiries came
to be made as to the probable sources of the Commedia was
much interest taken in it. It would doubtless be easy to
exaggerate the influence which Latino may be assumed to have
I.] CONTEMPORARIES OF DANTE. 13
exercised over his more famous disciple many critics have
done so. Considering, however, the early and intimate rela-
tions between them, and that Dante is certain to have known
the Tesore/fo, nothing is more likely than that Latino's example
may have gone some way in determining the form of the
Commedia. Of course, in Dante's hands the vision becomes
a totally new thing.
A niche must here be found for Fra Jacopone da Todi,
described by Villemain as le bouffon du genre dont le Dante
e'tait le poete. He was an inspired madman, who, having lost
the wife of his youth, became a Franciscan. What he com-
posed in his frenzy is so eccentric that it is difficult to give it
a name. It is pure midsummer madness, the like of which
is nowhere in literature to be found. Like other unfortunates,
he had his lucid intervals, but what he wrote then, though
more decorous, is also more feeble. He was the author of
the Stabat Mater, a tearful Latin poem, which has done far
more for his fame than any of his Italian ravings. The date
of his birth is unknown, but he died at a great age in 1 306.
His real name was Jacopo, which was turned by the people
into Jacopone on account of his buffooneries. His surname
The catalogue of Dante's rivals ends with another Guido,
or, as he is called more frequently, Guittone d' Arezzo
(t 1294). His general style, disfigured by intentional ob-
scurity and foolish artifice, is the reverse of attractive.
Through a long invertebrate paragraph, and at distressingly
short intervals, he will ring the changes on a single vocable,
under its several forms as verb and noun, adverb and ad-
jective, so that it is sore work to read him, and this is only
one of his trickeries. His writings, however, are important
as affording the earliest specimens of Italian epistolary com-
14 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
position. He has left forty letters, thirty-two in prose and
eight in verse. . On purpose, as it might seem, to confound
our natural expectations, there are given to him certain sonnets
which are all that his other writings are not, graceful and
pure, the acme of good taste and felicitous expression. Hence
in the opinion of divers critics, more attentive to the logic of
the case than concerned for Guittone' s reputation, they must
be judged away from him ; the more so, because he is several
times spoken of in no gentle terms by Dante. A question,
however, might arise as to the importance of Dante's censure.
It would not be difficult to adduce proofs that the greatest
poets are not always the best critics. To select one of the
most apposite, there is a passage in the Commedia in which
Dante passionately defends Arnold Daniel from the de-
preciatory comparisons of Guittone, but later judges are
unanimous that Guittone was right.
So much for the poets. A brief reference must be made
also to the prose-writers. One of the most striking features
of chivalry is the enthusiasm which was everywhere shown for
chronicles. The earliest specimen of the sort now extant in
Italian is a work by Matteo Spinelli. It is written in the
Apulian dialect, and for that reason it is usual to forbear any
detailed notice of it. It will be convenient to mention here
the Novellmo or Flower of Gentle Speech, although it is not
quite a parallel case, being a collection of a hundred tales.
While the compilation, in the form in which we have received
it, is undoubtedly later than the thirteenth century, there are
individual stories dating from the reign of Frederick II, which
are here permanently embalmed.
The first author of any considerable work was Bicordano
Malespini, who wrote a history of Florence. This chronicle,
like others of its class subsequently, has a long preamble in
I.] CONTEMPORARIES OF DANTE. 15
the nature of a universal history, and reaching back to Ninus.
The insertion was not wholly gratuitous. The age was one
of gross ignorance, which Malespini, somewhat out of season,
thus attempted to dispel. Ricordano Malespini' s chronicle
ends with the year 1282, and is continued by his nephew
Giacchetto down to 1286. The work supplies no internal
evidence of the break, the nephew being in manner so like
the uncle that the Storia might well pass as the composition
of one and the same person. Another historian of the period
is Dino Compagni (t 1255-1324), who takes up his
parable at the point where Giacchetto Malespini leaves off.
He recounts the famous reform of Giano della Bella, the
coming of Charles of Valois, the usurpation and death of
Carlo Donati, and the descent of Henry of Luxemburg.
Dino was not only eye-witness, but was himself pars magna
of the scenes he realistically depicts. Singularly, as appears
to us, he makes but little of Dante, although the latter had
preceded him in the office of prior. Political differences
may in part account for this, but men had hardly had time
as yet to take in the superhuman dimensions of Dante's
character and genius. Finally, the reader should be warned
that some scepticism exists as to the authenticity of these
This was a great age of translators. Brunetto Latino,
who was called on that account by Filippo Villani the
* Schoolmaster of the Florentines/ rendered into Italian
Cicero's Books on Rhetoric, together with other writings
of the ancients, and Bono Giamboni, as before noted, did the
same for the larger work of Latino.
IT was intimated at the outset that Dante (1265-1321)
was the virtual creator of Italian literature, and that writers
who went before prepared the way for him. We are now
better able to see in what sense this was true. In the Sicilian
school there was passion without knowledge, in the Bolognese
knowledge without passion. (The formula need not be con-
strued too literally : it represents correctly enough the broad
aspects of the case.) There_can, however, be no great work
of imagination in which these elements do not blend, to
which heart and head do not contribute egually. This
auspicious union was consummated in Dante. Setting aside
the question of the truth or falsehood of those systems in
which he had been educated, and looking only to the amount
of information which he actually assimilated, it may be said
that, with one or two exceptions, none ever knew more than
Dante. It is certain that none ever felt more deeply. The
result might almost have been foreseen. Poetry, which had
before existed in a gaseous state, was by Dante crystallized
into the consistency, splendour, and worth of a diamond.
His biography, for so great a man, is very brief. Carlyle
says it is ' irrecoverably lost/ but enough has been saved for the
interpretation of his writings. A Florentine, and born in the
city the 8th May 1265, he came of an old and honourable
family, the Aldighieri. One of his ancestors, Cacciaguida,
Ch. II.] DANTE. 17
fought under the Emperor Conrad in the Crusades, and
after being dubbed a knight fell gloriously in the Holy Land.
His father dying when the poet was still an infant, the task
of bringing him up devolved on his mother, Bella. It was
excellently performed. Brunetto Latino is said to have been
his preceptor, and to have taught him rhetoric, while in-
struction in other subjects was imparted to him in the
schools of his native city. In 1281, when he was hardly
sixteen, he proceeded (so, at least, says Benvenuto da Imola)
to Bologna to perfect himself.
Dante was a lover of the fine arts, and an intimate friend
of Giotto, as well as of Oderigi or Oderisi da Gubbio, a
notable miniature painter of Bologna. Furthermore, we learn
from Boccaccio that Dante, being naturally sombre, sought
relief from his thoughts in the society of the celebrated
singers and musicians at Florence, and especially of one
Casella, who appears to have set Dante's verse to music.
His attachment to these aesthetic pursuits, however, was not
such as to render him less expert in more virile accomplish-
ments. He fought on horseback in the front ranks at
Campaldino (1289) against the Ghibellines of Arezzo, and
the following year shared the triumph of his countrymen
over the Pisans at Caprona. In due time he was advanced
to be one of the chief magistrates of Florence, in which
position it was inevitable that he should be drawn into the
violent and bitter struggles which disfigured her public life.
The rival parties were the Neri and Bianchi. In the former
the Guelfs predominated, while the latter included many
Ghibellines. Dante in his office of prior was thought to
favour the Bianchi. During the progress of the quarrel he
went to Rome to implore the mediation of the pope, and
his enemies availed themselves of his absence to obtain
1 8 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
sentence of exile against him, with the confiscation of his
goods. This stern decree was afterwards aggravated by the
brutal corollary that he should be burnt, if captured, alive.
The pretext assigned was that he had been guilty of
The date of Dante's priorate was 1300, and he was
banished in 1302. In 1304 he probably took part in a
sudden attack on the city by his fellow-exiles. The assault
failed, and it does not appear that it was ever renewed. From
this time Dante's hopes of restoration depended not so much
on the efforts of the Bianchi as on the general success of the
Ghibelline cause, to which, on other and higher grounds,
he attached supreme importance. He now led a nomadic
life, partly at the various seats of learning, partly at the
courts of princelings, like Can Grande of Verona. He
died the i4th of September, 1321, at Ravenna, where he
lies buried in the Friars' Church. Previous to his exile he
married a lady named Gemma Donati, by whom he had
sons and daughters. Two sons, Pietro and Jacopo, anno-
tated their father's poem. Neither rose above mediocrity.
The gossips would have it that Dante's wife Gemma was
a scold, and that, having once parted from her, he never
wished for her again. Boccaccio has reported this scandal,
with a qualifying non so. However that may be, certain
it is that Dante was always in verse or prose reviving the
memory of his first love. To this first love of Dante, so
fruitful in its consequences, the reader must now direct his
When Dante was nine years old, he was invited to a party
at the house of one of the noblest citizens of Florence, Folco
Portinari, where he made the acquaintance of an angelic
little being, named Bice or Beatrice. She was the daughter
II.] DANTE. 19
of Portinari, and about a year younger than Dante. It was
springtime, and the sweet season adding its influence to the
festiveness of the scene and Bice's childish beauty, there was
wrought in Dante's heart a mysterious change which left him
no more master of himself. His passion had not much to
feed on, but Dante was not dissatisfied. A sight, a greeting,
sent him to the seventh heaven. No terms were too ex-
travagant to describe his emotions, for they absorbed his
whole nature, and out of the abundance of his charity he
was ready to forgive his worst enemies their transgressions.
What, however, is of more concern to us is the force of this
attachment in developing his poetic faculty. At nineteen
years of age, as he himself tells us, he wrote his first sonnet,
addressing it to all the poets then living in order to provoke
a reply. Among the answers he received was one from his
namesake, Dante of Majano. The little poem, whose sub-
ject was a love-dream, was published anonymously, and
counted among its admirers Guido Cavalcanti, who became,
as the fatal consequence, one of Dante's warmest friends.
By-and-bye Beatrice was married to a young nobleman,
Simone de' Bardi, but the event does not appear to have
occasioned in Dante any excessive perturbation of spirit.
His love for her had always been platonic : at any rate
he survived. What did prostrate him was her death, which
occurred the 9th of June, 1290, when Dante was twenty-five.
From that time the gaiety of his spirits was permanently
eclipsed. For years he was inconsolable. He could not
forget his loss. Even study, the counsels of grave philoso-
phers, failed to restore his equilibrium. In vain he read
Boethius and Cicero. He could find vent for his feel-
Ings nowhere except in verse. Towards his twenty-ninth
year he grouped his scattered poems into an opuscule,
20 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
which he entitled Vita Nuova, and sent it with a sonnet to
The Vita Nuova is not simply verse. It is verse in a
setting of prose, and was intended as a memorial to the dead
Beatrice. In it he relates the commencement, progress, and
conclusion of their loves. The work is quasi-scientific, Dante
being at once poet and commentator. Guided by the same
motives which prompted Goethe to compile that surprising
document Dichtung und Wahrheit, though employing a
different method, Dante takes each poem and expounds its
meaning. Already in this his first work he certifies himself
as a dreamer. The Vita Nuova is a train of soft illusions,
or, to change the figure, we have here the pilgrim of love
recounting his ecstasies. It closes with the mention of a
wondrous vision surpassing all which had before appeared
to him, and the lover and clairvoyant expresses the not futile
hope that he may say of Beatrice that which was never yet
said of any. In these rather enigmatical terms some have
read an announcement of the Divine Comedy a reading
which, apart from the plain coincidence, receives support
from the tradition that of the Inferno eight cantos were com-
pleted before Dante's exile.
The poetry of the Vita Nuova has a delicate undefinable
charm which springs largely from its spontaneity. The
images, as they arose in his mind, clothed themselves in
appropriate language which Dante had no need to retouch.
As regards the commentary it is notable as being the first
prose writing in Italian literature which reveals the hand of
an artist. It has indeed some smack of the scholastic rigour
of the age, but whatever its deficiencies in this respect, the
vocabulary is richer, the style more majestic, the expressions
bolder than anything to be found in the works of his prede-
II.] DANTE. 21
cessors. The publication of the Vita Nuova, added to his
rhymes on various subjects which were passed from hand
to hand, rendered Dante the most famous poet of the time,
and among those who saluted the rising luminary was the
illustrious King of Hungary, Charles Martel.
Dante's next great work was the Convito, written seem-
ingly in the interval between the separation of the exiles
and the election of Henry of Luxemburg as King of the
Romans. The title is borrowed from the Symposium of Plato,
and Dante's object in writing the book was to reproach his
countrymen for their conduct towards him, to show what?
manner of man they had lost by banishing him, and, if
possible, to effect his return. The work is similar in design
to the Vita Nuova. It was to consist of fourteen canzonets
in honour of Beatrice, from which he undertook to bring
out the philosophic import concealed under the obvious
sense. This he did in a scientific comment, which, how-
ever, does not extend beyond the third canzonet. These
poems were certainly not written with any arriere pense'e such
as Dante imputes to them, but the spirit of allegory was
abroad, and this, assisted by the precedent of Cavalcanti's
poem on the Nature of Love and the innumerable commen-
taries thereupon, fortified Dante for an otherwise impossible
task, i. e. that of extracting from a piece something which it
does not contain.
The Convito is the first successful attempt to trick out
Aristotelian philosophy in an Italian dress. Emphasis is
to be laid on the word ' successful/ for leaving out Bono
Giamboni's translation of Latini's Tesoro, which was more
rhetorical than scientific, a celebrated physician, Taddeo
Ippocratista, had attempted a translation of Aristotle's Ethics,
but the result was a failure. The Convito opens with a
22 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
glowing eulogy on the Italian vernacular, which Dante likens
to a new sun destined to arise and give light to those who
are in gloom and darkness through the wonted sun, which
does not illumine them. Allowance being made for the
nature of the theme, the style of the Convito is in a high
degree lofty and grand. Dante, whilst he adheres to scientific
convention, is skilled in inventing new phrases which shed
interest on a subject essentially dry, and here and there are
outbursts of feeling, lyrical digressions, in which, released
from the trammels of the schools, he allows full scope to his
splendid eloquence. We must not, however, look for much
originality in the thought of the Convito. In those days
Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology were so in-
extricably bound up with each other as to be, in a certain
sense, one, and Dante was rigidly orthodox. In this re-
spect the Convito is mainly of service as a commentary on
the Commedia, in parts of which, especially the Paradiso, the
same ideas are reproduced, only more briefly.
If the Convito teaches us Dante's philosophy, De Monarchia,
a Latin tractate, shows us his politics. In order to counter-
act the intrigues of the Pope, Philip of France, and the King
of Naples, who sought to undermine his authority, Henry VII,
in 1309, made a descent upon Italy, thereby raising the
hopes of the Ghibellines to their zenith. Unluckily at the
very moment when he was preparing to take vigorous and
decisive action, the emperor sickened and died at the monas-
tery of Buonconvento. This deplorable event both ruined
the fortunes of the Ghibelline party and rendered Dante's
exile perpetual. In his elation at the prospects which Henry's
advent unfolded to him, Dante wrote several letters in which
he boldly assailed his adversaries and proclaimed their
destruction with an acrimony which his biographers have
II.] DANTE. 23
striven to excuse on the ground of human infirmity.
Certainly it would not be difficult to apologise for a man who
was at that very time under sentence of being burned alive,
but Dante's resentment was rather political than personal.
He did not desire the extinction of Florence, but his own
return thither and the organization of the city on (as he
conceived) sound political principles. What those principles
were he gives us to understand in De Monarchia.
Dante's theory is that ideal government is one, com-
prehending all nations. Oligarchies and democracies are
departures from the true type ' accidental governments,'
' oblique polities ' as is proved by their involving wars and
dissensions. What is required is not division, but unity.
On turning over the pages of history, he finds his ideal
realised in the Roman Empire, whose existence he regards as
having been in a special manner ordained by Providence.
The Roman Empire is the empire par excellence -, and its
restoration is devoutly to be wished. These ideas are not
by any means the exclusive property of Dante. There is
hardly a political treatise of that age in which they may not
be found. They are discussed, above all, in St. Thomas
Aquinas' De Regimine Principum. The difficulty lay in their
application. ' Who was the rightful successor of Augustus ? '
that was the question. The Ghibellines replied, ' The
Emperor of Germany': the Guelfs, 'The Pope.' Whilst,
then, Henry of Luxemburg sought to enforce his prerogative
by material means, Dante undertook a crusade for the same
object among the learned. His treatise is in the form of an
immense syllogism. He shows in the first book that the
perfection of civil life is a universal monarchy; in the second,
that this perfection is incarnate in the Roman Empire, which
is, so to speak, in abeyance, not repealed or done away;
24 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
whilst in the third he defines the relations between the empire
and the papacy, and maintains that loyalty to the one does
not imply disrespect to the other. He asserts that Italy, as
the centre of the Roman Empire, ought to be one, but rejects
the conclusion that municipal privileges, so dear to his
republican countrymen, should be forfeited to the emperor.
The treatise De Vulgari Eloquentia deals at large with a
subject to which Dante had already referred in the Convito
the Italian language. Although utterly distinct from De
Monarchic as regards its contents, it proceeds from the same
intention, i. e. to pave the way for national unity. As in the
case of De Monarchia also he writes for the learned, and
what he essays to prove is that there are latent capacities in
the Italian vernacular which would enable it to surpass its
sister-dialects, and even to vie with the Latin from which it
had sprung. Such a proposition at the time could only
pass as rank heresy, as in the highest degree presumptuous.
The way Dante sets about his task is this : he begins by
investigating the origin of language. He next defines ver-
nacular and grammatical speech. By the former he under-
stands living languages in general, and by the latter dead
languages, more especially Latin and Greek. From the
concord of primitive speech he passes to the story of the
Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues, describes the
spread of various languages, and having arrived at the south
of Europe, distinguishes the derived languages as those of oc^
oil, and si, pausing on the last as the actual speech of
the Italian people. He examines the nature and condition
of the different dialects, and successively rejects them all,
finding in them discrepancies from those models of Italian
composition which had been circulating since the reign of
Frederick II. Finally, he concludes that ' illustrious car-
II.] DANTE. 25
dinal, aulic' vernacular appears in all cities, but resides in
We now come to the greatest poem ever produced in
Italy, and, we may surely add, in Christendom. All that has
been described hitherto, all the poetry and prose of Dante's
precursors, and his own, derive a great part of their signifi-
cance from the bearing which they have on the Commedia.
The Commedia itself is a retrospect, a summary the to-
tality of the middle ages. And it is Dante in his maturity
and perfection. Whatever he at any time thought, felt,
hoped, is here presented in its most artistic form. It is a
splendid and culminating effort, in which the various threads
of melody echoing in his heart and registered in his life are
wrought up in a glorious climax. The scheme of the^-
Commedia is somewhat as follows : The poet first imagines
himself in a dark wood at the foot of a mountain. Here
he is confronted by three wild beasts, a leopard, a lion, and
a wolf, which appear to him one after the other and arrest
his further progress. Then the shade of Virgil presents '\
itself and promises to show him the way out of the forest.
He tells Dante that it was the express will of Heaven that he,
like Aeneas, founder of the holy Roman Empire, and Saint
Paul, the chief bulwark of Christianity, should visit the
eternal regions. After a while, as they approach the difficult
pass, Dante falters and entreats his conductor for some
proof of his sufficiency. Virgil thereupon details to him how
that three heavenly ladies, discerning his piteous case, had
interested themselves in his deliverance. One he does not
name, another he calls Lucia, and the third Beatrice. The
pilgrim is reassured, and with this the poem is fairly
Under Virgil's guidance Dante visits the circles and dun-
26 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
geons of the damned, first passing Limbo with its amiable
habitants of virtuous heathen and unchristened babes. He
is the terrified spectator of those dreadful torments which
are the familiar routine of hell. It may perhaps be noticed
that many of the penal divisions have a coryphaeus or hero
in some historic or legendary personage of note. Thus
Plutus is lord of the covetous, Phlegyas of the wrathful,
Minotaur of the violent, Geryon of the fraudulent, and
Cacus of the robbers. The circles diminish on the pattern of
a Greek fret, and the whole terminates in the gigantic person
of Lucifer. At this point the travellers perform a summer-
sault, and after more journeying arrive at the Antipodes.
Here the sight of an exceeding high mountain greets them,
like a sort of Jacob's ladder, connecting this world, which
Dante conceives to be the centre of the universe, with the
planets. This is the Mount of Purgatory, which is marked
by various degrees, and at the top is the Earthly Paradise.
The sufferings of Purgatory differ from those of Hell, not so
much in their nature as in their duration and purpose. On
arriving at the Earthly Paradise Dante passes out of the
tutelage of Virgil into that of Beatrice, whose advent is
signalized by triumphal pageantries. Beatrice is now a
glorified saint, but she still manifests a pure memory of
her ancient love by her habit of living flame. Then Dante,
voyaging from glory to glory, visits the planets and fixed
stars, each with its company of happy spirits, and is at
length conducted to the presence of the Good Itself. The
smile on Beatrice's face, which has been still growing in
sweetness and in intensity, culminates, and Dante's vision
is no more.
Such, in the barest outline, is the sublimest poem of
Christendom. What is its interpretation? That the wood,
II.] DANTE. 27
the hill, the lion, the leopard, the greyhound, Virgil, Dante
himself, Beatrice, Lucia, and the Lady Merciful are alle-
gorical, it is impossible to doubt, and one explanation of
them is this : Dante, perceiving that he ha,s )oat hjs way\
in the forest of vice, attempts to raise himself to the heights
of virtue, but luxury, pride, avarice, symbolized by the
leojjaid^ theJion, and the wolf, hinder him from doing so.
Moral philosophy, typified by Virgil, shows him the conse-
quences of vice in the eternal punishment of the damned
and the temporal punishment of the souls in purgatory,
whilst theology, in the person of Beatrice, leads him to the_
sight of virtue as rewarded in the blessedness of the saints.
Dante is thus induced to amend his life and return to the
straight path. This is substantially Dante's own account of /
the Commedia, to which he assigns a double meaning, some-
what as Spenser does to his Faerie Queene. In the letter to
Can Grande della Scala he writes, ' It is to be remarked that
the sense of this work is not simple, but on the contrary
I may say manifold. For one sense is th^f whirfa j^ flfiriv^fj
from the letter, and another is that which is derived from the
things signified by the letter. The first is called literal, the
'second is allegorical or moral. The subject then of the
whole work taken literally is the condition of the souls
after death simply considered. For on this and around^)
this the whole action of the work turns. But if the work/
be taken allegorically, the subject is man, how by actions \
of merit or demerit he justly deserves reward or punishment.'/
Some, investing these symbols with a political meaning,
look upon the poem as a perpetual allusion to the vicissi-
tudes of the author. Such a view, however, is hardly tenable.
The political element is certainly not wanting, but the moral,
the religious element is strongly in the ascendant. There
28 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
is room perhaps for a compromise. Dante is a type of
humanity redeemed by the blood of Christ. He is at the
same time the symbol of Italian humanity which has gone
astray from the straight path, has forsaken imperialism for
democracy. Democracy is represented by the leopard, a
creature as lithe and beautiful outwardly as it is cruel and
merciless within. By the lion is meant the House of France,
whose escutcheon bore that device, and the wolf is the
church, whose ministers in too many instances were veritable
wolves in sheep's clothing. Interpreting the poem thus, the
aim of the Commedia is the reformation of manners in the
world at large, and especially in the Italian peninsula.
The chief feature in the style of the Commedia is its
j objectivity. What Dante wishes to say is expressed in the
| fewest possible terms, but his pictures are complete and in-
Vcessant. He insists on making a minute inventory of his
vast cosmorama a mode of treatment which a writer of less
imagination would have found too exacting for a composi-
tion of such length, or which, in other hands, might have
resulted in the specification of loose and irrelevant details.
With Dante, on the contrary, nothing is irrelevant ; his whole
poem is charged with meaning. This fulness of significance
Vmgjwfp a mngidprahlfi fax on the ingenuity of his com-
mentators, who, ere now, have arrived at the most opposite
conclusions as to the purport of his emblems ; and owing to
this incapacity to understand him, charges of obscurity have
been launched at Dante. Such accusations are by no
means idle, Dante's brevity and concentration of phrase
having their natural sequel in the perplexity and fatigue of his
The greatness of the Commedia, its almost superhuman
greatness, was at once recognised in Italy, where it was
II.] DANTE. 29
received as a kind of national Bible, and professors Boc-
caccio being the first were appointed to interpret it. With
scarcely an objector of importance, apart from Voltaire,
who was also a disparager of Shakespeare, its reputation has
remained constant, and nothing, we may be sure, but a
universal cataclysm will extinguish it.
Something should be said about the title. Dante named
his poem the Commedia, and he has told us why because
after many adventures it ends happily. The adulation of
later times, the feeling that this name Commedia was all too
mean for a poem of such rare excellence, prefixed to it the
epithet divina, and thus it has ever since been known as the
The intrinsic worth of the Commedia, as well as the uni-
versal eclat with which it was received, were such as to
discourage imitators, and the one or* two attempts made to
rival it only served to show the nature of Dante's incom-
parable triumph in still higher relief. Of Petrarch's ill-advised
challenge it will be opportune to speak in the next chapter,
but it may not be amiss here briefly to refer to two works,
both in terza rima, and obviously inspired by the Commedia.
The first is the Dittamondo, or as it is entitled in the older
editions, Dicta Mundi of Fazio degli Uberti, grandson of
the famous, or rather infamous, Farinata, It is an amalgam
of history and geography, and performs for this world the
office which the Commedia had performed for the next. It is
not altogether without merit, Fazio being one of the most
cultivated men of the age, but its recommendations are merely
of the verbal sort. Except in those places where the author
endeavours to be Dantesque, the style is remarkably neat
and clear. The other work is the Quadriregio of Federigo
Frezzi da Foligni, which deals with all four partitions of the
30 ITALIAN LITERATURE.
universe, but, as compared with Dante's, Frezzi's point of
view is more that of a pagan. The Quadriregio, though not
a great poem, is distinguished by occasional passages of much
force, and the versification is nearly always elegant. The date
of these writings is not exactly known, but both appertain
to the fourteenth century.
PETRARCH AND BOCCACCIO.
THOUGH Petrarch and Boccaccio belong to the generation
succeeding that of Dante, it is customary to class them
together under the name triumvirate. The title is chosen
somewhat unhappily, but the description has taken root, and
apart from its associations, is certainly not without some
basis in reason. Dante, the creator of Italian literature,
Petrarr}], its grpafp^f; lyrical writer, and Boccaccio, the father
. of Italian prngp. T stanH out from among the minor writers of
the age like Titans, and on the ground of merit are suffi-
ciently related inter se to allow of their being placed in a
single category. But this classification has no validity outside
the peninsula. Dante is a first-rate genius ; he takes rank
with Shakespeare and Homer, literary demigods, whereas
Petrarch and Boccaccio, at their greatest, are perfectly
human, perfectly conceivable. Petrarch and Boccaccio are
noble artists ; Dante is profoundly original. Whether Boc-
caccio is to be preferred to Petrarch, or contrariwise, Petrarch
to Boccaccio, it might excite a controversy to offer to deter-
mine. As a poet at least, in spite of his inordinate ambition,
Boccaccio must be content with the third place, the role of
Lepidus, in the triumvirate.
Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) was the son of a
notary, called Petracco, who was banished from Florence
32 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
with many more famous and eminent than himself, by
Charles of Valois. He and his wife, Eletta Canigiana,
betook themselves to Arezzo, where, about two years later,
Francesco was born ; and ultimately they went to reside at
Avignon, in the south of France. Here Petrarch grew up,
and, a fact to which he probably owed much, he had as his
tutor a Tuscan scholar. The circumstances of the family
were not good, and Petrarch was sent by his father to the
schools of Montpellier and Bologna to study jurisprudence.
For a youth of Petrarch's temperament this was not a con-
genial occupation, and he seems to have spent much of his
time in surreptitious reading of the classics. His father dis-
covered his propensity, and with a view to stopping the
practice, surprised him and threw his books into the fire.
But strict as he was, he relented at the sight of his son's
consternation, and drawing two manuscripts, a Cicero and a
Virgil, half burnt from the flames, replaced them in Pe-
trarch's hands, while Petrarch, in an ecstasy of gratitude,
promised that his sole care henceforth should be law.
Not long after his parents died, a deplorable event, but
not without its compensations, since for Petrarch the avenue
was thus opened to fame and fortune. He became attached
to the household of the powerful Colonnesi, by whom he
was treated with the utmost affection and esteem, and he
now definitely forsook jurisprudence for literature. At the
age of twenty- two he happened to be in a church at Avignon,
where he saw a beautiful girl, and instantly fell in love with
her. Her name was Laura, she was then twenty years old,
and she had been wedded two years before to Hugh de
Sade, scion of a distinguished family of Avignon. The dis-
covery of this fact made no difference in the warmth of
Petrarch's affections. Avignon was the hotbed of troubadour
III.] PETRARCH AND BOCCACCIO. 33
traditions, whereby marriage with another was no bar to love.
It was understood of course that the love was to be simply
and strictly platonic, and such, it appears, was Petrarch's.
Notwithstanding, he seems never to have been free from
scruples on the subject, and if in his casuistical dialogues
with Saint Augustine he talks of a moral improvement as
the fruit of his passion, in his Letter to Posterity he thinks
repentance a more becoming posture. It is quite gratuitous,
however, to assail the character of Laura, who accepted the
homage of the poet, but on his own testimony repelled the
advances of the man.
Petrarch's fame now rests on his Canzoniere. or lyrical
poems, which describe the phases of his love for Madonna
Laura, and consist of two main divisions, those written
before the death of his mistress and those subsequent to that
event. They are composed with exquisite art, and despite
the indifference with which Petrarch affected to treat them,
it is evident that he was no stranger to the use of the file.
In 1642 Ubaldini discovered an autograph of Petrarch, the
margins of which are crowded with variants, showing the
insatiable desire which possessed him for perfection of form.
About the skill and beauty of his sonnets there can be no
controversy. For six centuries they have given him a place
in the estimation of his countrymen on a plane with Ariosto
and only a little lower than Dante himself. There remains
a question, however, how far his emotions were deep and
Perhaps we shall best hit the mark if we say of Petrarch
that he is the~ pniiceTof sentimentalists. TEe title ' king of
poets/ which the flattery of the age adjudged to him, he
frankly disclaimed, not that he thought himself unworthy of
it, but because he had de facto no sphere in which to exercise
34 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
his sovereignty. The reader may suppose that he was
pointing to Dante, by whom, with his magnificent trilogy,
he had been effectually forestalled. Such, however, was not
Petrarch's thought. He was the spoilt child of his time;
and courted as he was by the great, followed, wherever he
went, by the popular applause, he may be forgiven for some-
what exaggerating his own importance, for failing imme-
diately to realise the impassable gulf between himself, an
excellent sonneteer, and a great constructive genius like
Dante. The truth is, however, that Petrarch did not regard
himself merely as a sonneteer, nor was it his aim, at any
rate his sole aim, to distinguish himself by his vernacular
writings. The poets whom he cites as in possession of the
throne are Homer and Virgil, and it was by a Latin epic,
Africa, that he hoped to attain immortality. On the strength
of this poem he was solemnly crowned with laurel in the
Campidoglio at Rome, and his prose writings in the same
language are almost as numerous as those of Alexander
Ross. He was also a diligent collector of manuscripts, and
exerted himself in every way to resuscitate the study of the
classics. Singularly enough the fraternity of learned men,
steeped in mediaeval prejudices, refused to acknowledge him
as a brother, and their verdict upon him was that he was a
person of worth but illiterate.
Late in life Petrarch seems to have awoke to the real
tendency of the age, which was all in favour of the moderns,
and the consequent danger to his own reputation. It was then
that he attempted to buy back the precious time which he
had wasted on learned miscellanies, but lacking either the dis-
cretion or the power to strike out a new line, projected a work
which was a faint reflex, an indistinct echo of the Commedia.
The very metre, terza rima, betrays the source from which it
III.] PETRARCH AND BOCCACCIO. 35
was inspired, and a closer inspection of the poem reveals
other points of resemblance which cannot have been acci-
dental. The work is a series of Triumphs (Trionfi d'Amore,
della Caslita, della Morte, della Fama, del Tempo^ della
Divinita), of which the ostensible subject is the poet and his
love, but which by implication takes in the destiny of man.
Considered away from the Commedia, the Trionfi are very
noble poems, set off by innumerable ornaments, and if some
trace of artificiality be found in them, some word-play which
is not quite in keeping with the dignity of the subject, such
defects can hardly affect our judgment of the work as a
whole. There is no great poet with whom, if we chose,, we
cannot find fault in matters of detail.
Petrarch, although he held ecclesiastical benefices, and
had in the abstract a strong penchant for ethics, was by no
means correct in his private life. Yet people were so in-
fatuated with him that, in addition to his other honours, he
was reputed a saint. The truest description of him is that
of a voluptuous recluse. His politics, like his verses, were
of the sentimental order. With the municipal factions of his
day, as was only to be expected, he, a citizen of Avignon, had
no sympathy, and, although he affected indignation at the
presence of foreign arms in Italy, he took care not to com-
promise himself, personally, with those (the King of Naples,
for example) whose friendship was advantageous to him.
With the Court at Avignon is associated the name of
another Italian, Francesco da Barberino (1264-1348), who
wrote two quasi-didactic poems, Document! d Amore and
Reggimenti delle Donne. At the mention of the first our
thoughts naturally recur to Ovid's Ars A men's and the
Roman de la Nose, but the Documenti bear no resemblance
to either. According to Francesco love is the mother of
36 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
the virtues. The latter, twelve in number, are treated sepa-
rately in as many books, each being introduced by a proem.
The work is chiefly remarkable for the luxuriance of its
metres, which are perpetually changing. The Documenti
were intended for gentlemen ; the Reggimenti delle Donne > as
the name implies, for ladies. The latter is partly in verse,
partly in prose, and there are occasional descriptive touches
suggesting that Francesco might have attained to some
eminence as a prose-writer. Unluckily he yielded to a
temptation which almost proved fatal to Boccaccio, that of
consulting his ambition rather than his faculty.
Before treating of Boccaccio, we must refer to a group of
writers who, although famous in another department of letters,
were so far in agreement. with him as to make prose the chan-
nel of their communications the three Villani. The eldest
Giovanni (1*1348) undertook a formal history of Florence
beginning, like the older chronicles, with the Tower of Babel.
In the opening chapters he borrows freely from Malespini
and similar authorities, reproducing their most extravagant
fables without any attempt to correct them. When, however,
he approaches the events of his own day, he puts aside
this perfunctoriness and approves himself both an acute and
an impartial historian. He was a Guelf in politics, and in
1316 was one of the Priors of the city of Florence, but he
castigates his own party with as little mercy as the Ghibellines,
His obvious fairness, and the pains he was at to investigate;
the causes of phenomena, constitute him an authority for the
vicissitudes of Florence during the period in question. Ir
1348 Giovanni Villani was carried off by the pestilence, but his
work was taken up by his brother Matteo, and, subsequently
by his nephew and the son of Matteo, Filippo Villani. Th<
last mentioned wrote also, but in Latin, the lives of thos<i
III.] PETRARCH AND BOCCACCIO. 37
Florentines who up to that date had distinguished themselves
Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) was the son of a mer-
chant, commonly styled ' da Certaldo/ but the circumstances
of his birth are otherwise not a little obscure. His mother is
stated to have been a Parisian, and it was, and is, the preva-
lent belief that he was born out of wedlock. The fact is
worth noting, as Boccaccio, during the greater part of his
life, was a libertine on principle, and seems to have been
wholly untouched by that affectation of delicacy which led
others as much as possible to spiritualize their emotions, if
not in their hearts, at least in their confessions. He was
brought up in Italy, and received his first lessons in the
school of Giovanni da Strada. Hence he was removed in
order that he might qualify for the career of a merchant.
But Boccaccio, whose taste for literature had gained for him,
whilst still a boy, the epithet of ' poet,' showed himself
utterly unsuited for business, and his father, willing to gratify
him, sent him to study canon law. According to one account
his master was Cino da Pistoia. Boccaccio spent six years
attempting to reconcile himself to this pursuit, but in the
end gave up the struggle and abandoned himself to letters.
Boccaccio's first essay was inspired by his passion for a
lady who, he more than hints, was the natural daughter
of King Robert of Naples. Boccaccio first saw her in
a church, and the same year gave an idealised version of
the affair in his Fiammetta. Some critics have doubted
the truth of the narrative, and have detected contradictions
in the different presentments of his amour, for to it he
several times recurs, and evidently thought of it as highly
praiseworthy. It is to be feared, however, that the unedifying
recital was not mere boasting on Boccaccio's part. From
38 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
relating his own adventures, Boccaccio proceeded to describe
the loves of other people. He commenced with the story of
Florio and Biancafiore mFilocopo, a prose novel, and this was
followed by the Teseide (translated by Chaucer) and Filostrato,
both of which were in verse. All three works are characterized
by the same general traits. Though in the last two instances
the subjects are drawn from the sphere of classical mythology,
the manner in which they are dealt with is throughout
romantic. Except for the first-named accident Boccaccio
might have been claimed as the creator of the new romantic
epic. In both poems he uses the ottava or eight-lined stanza,
the invention of which has been sometimes, though erro-
neously, ascribed to him.
Hardly as might have been thought, Boccaccio was a
devoted lover of Dante, and attempted a poem on the same
lines as the Commedia. The Amoroso, Visione, for this was
the title of the poem, was written before Petrarch's Trionfi,
to which it is decidedly inferior. The fact is Boccaccio,
with all his powers of description, was entirely destitute
of the faculty which success in this class of writing pre-emi-
nently demands that of executing vivid and striking images
in a few pregnant touches. Boccaccio, who in Filostrato
and Teseide had already shown a predilection for classical
mythology, returns to the same source in two other com-
positions his Caccia di Diana and Ameto. The former is
a symbolical representation of the Court of Naples. The
Diana Partenopea of the piece is Queen Giovanna, and the
nymphs are her ladies. These are all described under their
own names, except Fiammetta, who, it appears, was really
called Maria. Ameto, as the name suggests, is a pastoral.
A medley of prose and verse, it afterwards served as a model
for Sannazzaro, Bembo, and Menzini. The author entitled
PETRARCH AND BOCCACCIO. 39
Commedia delle Ninfe fiorentine^ and Ameto is shown in it
as a father-confessor, to whom a bevy of ladies confide their
secrets. Madonna Fiammetta, who is of the party, details
her love-passages with the poet, and Ameto is at length won
from his churlishness to a duteous adoration of the sex.
None of these works became popular, chiefly because
Boccaccio made a point of importing into the language Latin
constructions, and even went so far as to fashion his style on
the precepts of rhetorical treatises to which Latin authors
themselves seldom conformed. His Life of Dante, however,
which is written in a charmingly simple vein, proved an
exception to the general fate of his writings, partly no doubt
from the subject, which Italians found very interesting.
Another exception was his Corbaccio, a long malediction
against the race of women, and especially a certain widow,
to whom Boccaccio had thought proper to pay attentions,
and who, in return for his flattery, had only quizzed him.
Boccaccio, the gallant, the hero of numerous conquests, in
his rage at this discomfiture, behaved like a wild boar, and
attacked blindly and indiscriminately the entire female sex,
which at other times he so passionately worshipped. This
extraordinary change of front and the heartiness of his ob-
jurgations naturally drew attention to a work which will
always keep its place as a literary curiosity. In addition to
his Life of Dante, Boccaccio, who was appointed by the City
of Florence to lecture on the Commedia, began a commentary
on that work which he did not live to complete. His greatest
achievement, however, is beyond question the Decanter one > a
volume of tales in prose, the origin of which was as follows :
In 1348 Florence was decimated by the plague, and
Boccaccio feigns that seven ladies and three cavaliers, in
order to escape the horrors of the pestilence, retire to a
40 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
country-house, where they beguile the time by telling stories.
This continues for the space of ten days, whence the title of
the book (ScVa ij/i/pai). Boccaccio was not at Florence when
this visitation occurred ; therefore he saw nothing of the
calamities attending it, but, in order probably to lend dignity
to his work, he sets out with an historical exordium in which,
on evidence collected from other people, he describes the
ghastly episode. The Decamerone is almost entirely free
from Boccaccio's characteristic faults. He neither obtrudes
his learning nor does he, as in his earlier works, waste him-
self on accessories. If he still clings to the period, it must
be owned that he is master of it. He found Italian prose
crude, undeveloped, and left it, after various experiments in
which, as we have seen, he was not wholly successful, mature.
The Decamtrgne is rpmark^]^ foi^Ua fiiL&hlJU!^ d,lid*vaiJ.ty A
The author seems bent on displaying his versatility, and
changes from grave to gay with surprising ease and with no
sensible diminution of power. The reputation of the De-
camerone was immense and not confined to Italy. France,
Germany, and Spain speedily possessed themselves of it
through the medium of translations, while in England it
suggested to Geoffrey Chaucer the idea of the Canterbury
Great, however, as was the popularity of the Decamerone
among the laity, it incurred the censure of the Church, They
were unwilling, however, to give him up to the conse-
quences of his own evil life, and in 1361 Boccaccio received
a visit from a certain Frate Ciani, who had been com-
missioned by a dying Carthusian to warn him of his ap-
proaching end and exhort him to repentance. Boccaccio
was panic-struck, and in the depth of his contrition would
have taken measures for the destruction of his entire works.
III.] PETRARCH AND BOCCACCIO. 41
Before finally committing himself to this step he wrote to
Petrarch, who ridiculed his fears and strongly dissuaded him
from the sacrilegious act. The shock, however, was too
much for Boccaccio's stoicism. He destroyed his unpublished
vernacular writings, got back as many copies as he could of
his published works, especially of the Decamerone, and wrote
to friends whom he knew to possess copies not to allow them
to be read by women and children. The caution was not un-
necessary, but it would be too much to allege that Boccaccio
had a deliberate object of corrupting the morals of the age.
It was rather the morals of the age which corrupted Boccaccio.
No account of this famous writer would be complete with-
out mention of him in another character that of an enthusi-
astic student of Greek literature. In 1360, the next year
after his paroxysm, he fell in with a certain Leonzio Pilato,
who was a native of Calabria and had spent many years in
the Levant. This man, who, to quote Boccaccio's description,
was a walking library, was induced to stay three whole years
at Florence, where Boccaccio lodged him at his own house
and listened to him reciting the poems of Homer. Instructed
by what he had heard, Boccaccio put forth a mythological
work, or, as he called it, a Genealogy of the Gods. Largely
through his example a number of clever young men dedicated
themselves to the same noble study ; and ultimately Chryso-
loras was elected by the Florentines professor of Greek at
the public charge.
The Decamerone was quickly followed by other works of a
similar scope ; first of all, by the Pecorone of Ser Giovanni
Fiorentino. Compared with its model, the Pecorone is a very
limp performance. A sober youth of Florence makes love
to a sober nun of Forli, and having won the connivance of
the prioress and sisters to their very innocent expressions of
42 ITALIAN LITERATURE.
attachment, he makes it his practice to visit the convent at a
certain hour, when the pair relate stories. These stories are
all that can be desired from a moral point of view, but the
writer possesses no imagination, and his sole merit, if he has
any, lies in his style, which, though not splendid, is clear,
simple, and direct, and well adapted to the purpose of
narration. A novelist of a very different stamp was Franco
Sacchetti (? 1330-1400), a contemporary both of Boccaccio
and Ser Giovanni. He was a Florentine magnate, and spent
the greater part of his life in the service of the state. He
essayed many sorts of composition, beginning with poetry.
He was particularly successful in light verse and satire, and
for their excellence some of his writings have been thought
worthy to be compared with Berni's. Sacchetti wrote also
some hundreds of love sonnets, but he is now remembered
chiefly, if not exclusively, for his novels, of which he proposed
to write three hundred, and actually completed two hundred
and seventy-eight. Although very slight, his stories are
models of construction. They display no slavish imitation
of Boccaccio. Sacchetti indeed is in some respects the
antithesis of this last. Boccaccio, even in the Decamerom,
was still something of a poet, a scholar, an artist, a philosopher
in short, an idealist. Sacchetti, on the contrary, was a man
of the world, a shrewd intent observer of external things.
Therefore in his work rather than the Decamerom we must
seek the germ of the modern novel.
THE DRAMA AND THE ROMANTIC EPIC.
THE fifteenth century, the period at which we have now
arrived, is marked by the development of two distinct species
of literature the drama and the romantic epic. About the
success of the Italians in the termer" there has never been
any doubt, but critics, both within the peninsula and without,
have often lamented the feebleness of the Italian stage. This
view of the matter is not entirely just. Italy, it is true, can
boast of no Shakespeare, but a nation which has produced
an Alfieri, a Goldoni, and created the classic opera and the
classic pantomime, can hardly be termed poor in dramatic
qualities. At present, however, it will be proper to consider
the Italian play in its more primitive state. In Italy, as in
Europe generally, the drama was revived under the protecting
aegis of the Church. The purpose of the clergy in fostering
the art seems to have been twofold. Partly they wished to
present object-lessons in religion, partly to guard against the
license into which popular exhibitions were too liable to
degenerate. These ecclesiastical performances were known
by various names. They were called mysteries, moralities,
feasts, miracle plays, but the generic description of Italian
mediaeval plays was representations. In the north of Europe
such works were nearly always gross and inartistic, and often
44 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
profane in tone, but from the worst of these faults the Italian
examples are conspicuously free.
The first dramatic composition which merits serious atten-
tion is by a contemporary of Dante, Albertino Mussato
(12621329). The drama to which he gave the name of
Ezzelino de Romano is in Latin, but claims a place here as
founded on events of the age and appealing to popular
sympathies. It is conceivable that if Mussato had been a
Florentine instead of a native of Padua, he might have
employed the vernacular, but the Paduan dialect was very
unlike literary Italian, and even the latter supplied no models
of dramatic writing. It is therefore easy to understand why
Mussato imitated as nearly as possible the Latin tragedians,
and wrote in their language. A still earlier play, supposed to
date from the time of Frederick Barbarossa, and in Latin
very barbarous Latin, however is of a yet more popular
character. Its subject is the coming and death of Antichrist,
and many believe that it is from the hand of the Emperor
himself. It is notable as the earliest specimen of melo-
dramatic composition in modern times, but as it is not in
Italian, any more extended notice of it would be out of place.
The origin and chronology of Italian representations are
both excessively obscure. Villani, under the year 1304,
alludes to a custom which he says was of long standing at
Florence the custom of exhibiting in spectacular form
popular ideas of the other world; and from the terms of
his reference he would seem to imply that the actors spoke.
It is probable therefore that this was a play of the same
general description as that which has been just mentioned,
but almost certainly in Italian. With regard to the subjects
of the representations they are drawn for the most part from
the Old and New Testament and the Lives of Saints, but
IV.] THE DRAMA AND THE ROMANTIC EPIC. 45
instances occur in which the writers, overstepping these limits,
deal with scenes of everyday life. The most unsatisfactory
are those which are directly based on Biblical narratives, as
the dramatist could not there make free use of his imagina-
tion without exposing himself to the charge of profanity.
Such works are therefore little more than mere verbal repro-
ductions of the Sacred Text. The dramas suggested by the
chronicles, lives of the saints, and episodes of common life
have far more colour and vivacity, but are deficient in
measure and proportion. It is likely that they were pro-
duced with a great deal of splendour, as they were written
for occasions of public rejoicing, and the services of famous
artists Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Pollaio, &c. were demanded
for the decorations.
Nor were the playwrights altogether insignificant. As
respects the majority of these dramas, it is true, the author-
ship is unknown, but this is by no means universally the
case. The most celebrated of these early dramatists is Feo
Belcari (1410-1484), but he owes his prominence less to his
own merits than to his having obtained the suffrages of the
Dellacruscans. It may fairly be questioned whether he is
actually superior to Castellano Castellani, a more prolific
writer, or to Antonia, wife of Bernardo Pulci. Pulci him-
self wrote dramas, and even Lorenzo de' Medici did not
disdain the attempt. The metre of the representations is
commonly the ottava for the dialogue, while the lyrical
portions copy the rhythms of the canzonet. Occasionally the
terza rima is used. Oddly enough to our notions, where the
personages include a doctor of law or medicine, whole stanzas
of Latin hendecasyllabics are foisted in, as though it were
understood that such learned persons spoke only that tongue.
The attitude of men of learning towards the sacred repre-
46 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
sentations is a subject of deep interest. It was not wholly
friendly. Bernardo Pulci and Castellano Castellani, cer-
tainly, were professors, and another playwright, Alessandro
Roselli, was a renowned writer of Latin verses, but then they
did not regard the drama seriously. They wrote either for
their own amusement or the diversion of their audience. The
growing enthusiasm for antiquity, which is so marked a
feature of the fifteenth century, brought the representations
into still greater disfavour with the world of learning. The
contemporary drama knew no distinctions of tragic and
comic, lyrical and satirical, but all these elements were
present in inextricable confusion. To the multitude, for
whom the spectacle was designed, there may have appeared
nothing very dreadful in this state of things, but scholars,
when they came to know and admire the masterpieces of
Aeschylus and Sophocles, seem to have felt a kind of despair
and relinquished all attempts to improve the native play.
This was unfortunate, as the representations, with all their
extravagance, afforded a more promising field to anyone pos-
sessing real abilities than study and imitation of the ancients.
The first author of an Italian drama is usually stated to
have been Angelo Poliziano (1454-1494): but Po^liziano, a
great scholar, was the author not of the first Italian drama,
but of the first classical Italian drama. Not that there was
any essential difference in structure or method between his
OrfeOy at least in its earliest form, and the Representations,
but the poet, having received the compliments of the learned
on his attempt, fancied that he could improve on his first
sketch, and without making any sweeping alterations in the
plot, re-touched the poetry and divided the drama into
five acts. Thus the regularity of the Orfeo is in a certain
sense an accident, since the author, if he had sought the
IV.] THE DRAMA AND THE ROMANTIC EPIC. 47
applause of scholars, would no doubt, following the prece-
dent of Mussato, have written in Latin, whereas if the
entertainment of the lay-people had continued to be his
object, he would have left the Orfeo as it originally was.
Probably for this reason the example proved sterile.
After all, it must be confessed that this first period of the
Italian drama is not brilliant, though it deserves more atten-
tion than is usually paid to it. The fortunes of the new
epic poetry were very different.
The romantic epic is enriched by three streams of legend
which have to do with Arthur of England, Charlemagne,
and Amadis of Gaul. Of the three Charlemagne, from an
Italian point of view, is incomparably the most important.
He is to Christendom what Aeneas was to Rome, and his his-
torical character has been entirely superseded and overlaid by
his mythical or acquired personality. The chief repository of
the legends concerning him is the Latin chronicle of S. Jago,
attributed by its author to Archbishop Turpin, the Emperor's
spiritual peer, and the N. French chansons de geste^ which were
very popular in Italy. Charlemagne's real exploits in Germany
where he defeated the Saxons, and in Italy where he over-
threw the Lombards, were not forgotten, but romancers delight
in celebrating his expedition to Spain, despite its calamitous
issue. The reason is not far to seek. The Moors stood in
the same relation to the Emperor's Prankish chivalry as the
Saracens afterwards stood to the Christians. Hence it was
easy for writers to invest their narrative with associations and
sentiments which had grown up during the Crusades.
The primitive home of the romance was in North Gaul,
and it long remained a French monopoly. Dante in his
De Vulgari Eloquentia states that all romances of chivalry
dispersed throughout Europe were in the French language.
48 IT ALT AN LITERATURE. [Ch.
This assertion and his complete silence as regards Italy seem
conclusive that there were up to that time no Italian romances,
for, had there been any, Dante would certainly have heard of
them, and would almost as certainly have quoted them. Never-
theless, three early narrative poems, imitated from the French
and entitled Spagna, Buovo d ' Antona, and Regina Ancroja,
have been thought to be anterior to Dante, not from external
evidence, but from the difficulty of supposing that verses of such
rude workmanship can have been composed subsequently.
One thing is known that down to the closing years of Pe-
trarch's life romances were little esteemed among the learned.
Romances were of two kinds : the earlier intended to be
sung, which were in verse, and those of later type in prose
which were read or recited. Thus in addition to the three
poems before cited there is an excellent prose harmony of
the Cycle of Charles the Great, entitled Reali di Francia,
and one still more celebrated to which Boccaccio refers in
his Corbaccio as a popular romance of the fayFebus. As
to the writers of these works we are completely in the dark.
After 1400 the romances were quickly multiplied, and the
interest of their material attracted superior intellects, e.g.
Luigi Pulci and Boiardo, who perceived that they could be
turned to excellent account with new handling.
Pulci (1431-1484) was the author of an epic called after
one of the personages, Morgante Maggiore. The real hero
is Orlando [Roland], nephew of Charlemagne, who goes
in search of adventures. During part of his travels he
is accompanied by a giant whom he had forcibly converted
to Christianity, the same Morgante. It is significant that
Charlemagne is here stripped of many of his venerable
attributes, and appears as the confederate and dupe of the
traitor Gano [Ganelon]. Pulci's object in thus violating
IV.] THE DRAMA AND THE DRAMATIC EPIC. 49
tradition doubtless was to exalt Orlando, who gains additional
eclat from the contrast of his uncle's imbecility. In the
epilogue, however, Pulci makes tardy reparation to the great
emperor, recalling his thousand benefits and naming him
divine. This variation of the Morgante from previous accounts
signalizes a new departure in letters. Hitherto romancers
had clung timidly to the authentic tradition, and respected
the autobiographic version, as it was thought, of Archbishop
Turpin. Pulci breaks through this restraint. Adhering to
the theory of a historical foundation, he taxes the chroniclers
with an omission.
The question has been raised, in what sense the Morgante
is to be understood. Is it a sincere and serious writing?
Portions of it are so extravagant, so grotesque, so bizarre, that
the idea has inevitably occurred to some minds that the poet
nourished a design similar to that of Cervantes, and in reality
was merely mocking at the institutions of chivalry. This
notion, however plausible at first, seems to be refuted by the
circumstance that the age was still to a large extent under
the sway of romantic sentiments, with ^jpjch Pulci was hardly
the man to place himself in conflict. Turthermore, the work
was taken up at the desire of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a very
religious lady, who begged Pulci, already famous for his
ballads, to compose a poem on Charlemagne. The capricious
mixture, therefore, as it seems to us, of the various sorts of
literature in Morgante, requires a different explanation. The
truth is, Pulci wrote at a time when there existed no canons
of taste to guide or dissuade him in the conduct of a
vernacular epic. Hence it is characterized by the same
multiplicity, the same chaos of ingredients which we have
already observed in the drama.
The Morgante, faulty or not, was immensely relished, and
50 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
from 1401, the date of its first publication, to the close of the
century, ran through five editions. It was in all probability
the success of this romance which induced Count Matteo
^Boiardo of Scandiano (1434-1494) to attempt a similar feat.
With admirable judgment he did not imitate the eccentricities
of Pulci. He cultivated, rather, a grave style, with the result
that the Orlando is loftier, more epic than the Morgante.
The hero is in both instances the same, but supports a
different character; in the Morgante he is a chafed and
angry warrior, in the Orlando the lover of Angelica. The
latter is wholly the creation of Boiardo, though, like Pulci,
he affects the historian, and makes out that Turpin has
ignored the affair, as derogatory to the paladin. Altogether
Boiardo sketched no less than sixty-nine cantos, but it may
be inferred from the cast of the poem that he contemplated a
still larger work which was to embrace the whole of chivalry.
His Orlando has many merits. The episodes are disposed
with considerable skill, the characters are well drawn, and
the situations dramatic, but the romance has one defect for
which all these excellences only imperfectly atone: the
execution is rude. Not only are provincialisms frequent,
but verbiage which needs to be pruned, and versification
which is not always harmonious, contribute to mar the
delightfulness of the poem. It has been twice reconstructed,
at the hands of Domenichi and Berni. The rifacimento of
Domenichi is now forgotten, but Berni's version may almost
be said to have saved Orlando Innamorato that and the
famous continuation of Ariosto. To both these poems there
will be occasion to refer later.
The length and particularity with which these epic com-
positions have been described may tend to disguise from
some minds the discredit into which the vernacular literature
IV.] THE DRAMA AND THE DRAMATIC EPIC. 51
had actually fallen. It is well therefore to insist that none
of these writings, neither the Morgante of Pulci, nor Boiardo's
Orlando, are at all comparable with the masterpieces of the
age which preceded or of that which came after. Alfieri
summed up the period in a memorable phrase ' il quattro-
cento sgrammaticava ' (' the fifteenth century was a solecism').
The sentence is rather too sweeping, or admitting its applica-
bility, it is true only of a portion of the time under review.
The fact is, barbarism rushed in like a flood soon after the
death of Petrarch (1375), and continued to infect the native
literature to the middle of the ensuing century, after which it
slowly receded, until a new and brilliant era the 'golden
age/ as it has been called was inaugurated in 1494.
Politically this year was one of the most unlucky in the
annals of Italy, being the date of the invasion of Charles VIII,
but it put an end to certain conditions which rank among the
principal causes of the decline of Italian literature. Without
some explanation a good deal of what has just been said
would remain a riddle. A short paragraph, therefore, may
be fitly dedicated to a statement of the causes why vernacular
composition was not maintained at the height to which
Dante and Petrarch had brought it.
The reader will not have forgotten that Petrarch and
Boccaccio had, as it were, a dual personality, and were
divided in their allegiance between the Latin and the Italian
muse. The restoration of classical Latinity as the medium
of polite writing was the dream of Petrarch's life, and
Boccaccio, as we have seen, was a fervent propagator of the
same literary cult. The epoch which we have just been
considering produced the harvest of which they sowed the
seed. All the able young men were absorbed in philology,
archaeology, philosophy. The revival of learning, it may
53 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
almost be said, was the extinction of originality. It was not
merely that they wrote in Latin, but being in perpetual dread
of committing a solecism, and thus exposing themselves to
the same ridicule which they launched at the scholastics, they
were sorely hampered in expressing their ideas. The spell
which these pursuits exercised over the choicest spirits of the
age has been likened to the glamour of the Crusades. Just
as the Knights hoped to win back the Holy Land from the
impious pagans, so it was the generous ambition of Italian
scholars to win back the glorious past of Latin civilisation.
Prominent among the supporters of the new movement was
Cosimo de' Medici, the great merchant of Florence, who was
virtual tyrant there, and, like Pisistratus of Athens, was the
founder of the first public library in his native city. Another
friend of the humanists was Pope Nicholas V, and it might
have been expected that Pius II who, as Aeneas Sylvius
Piccolomini, had been a voluminous writer, would have
shown equal enthusiasm. On his elevation to the Papacy,
however, he forsook the humanities for religion, promoting
crusades and other extravagances which were no longer in
keeping with the temper of the age. Paul II, reverting to the
policy of Eugenius IV, did not even tolerate the humanists.
The first to raise the vernacular literature from the low
estate into which it had fallen was Lorenzo, grandson of
Cosimo de 7 Medici, and surnamed ' the Magnificent' (1448-
1492). In a conclave of the Academy, an institution founded
by Cosimo, and including among its members Pico della
Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino, it was solemnly
decided that the vernacular was worthy of study. Lorenzo
himself led the way by inditing poems in Italian, Nencia de
Barberino, the plaint of a country swain, and Beoni^ which
professes to describe the adventures of certain drunkards, j
IV.] THE DRAMA AND THE DRAMATIC EPIC. 53
Already reference has been made to Angelo Poliziano as a
dramatist. To this must be added a few words with respect
to his Stanze, a work which he is said to have written at the
extraordinarily early age of fourteen. In the year 1468 were
held two tournaments to celebrate the conclusion of peace
with Venice. In the first Lorenzo de' Medici won the prize,
whilst Giuliano was victorious in the second. Lorenzo's
triumph was commemorated in a short poem by Pulci, and
Poliziano was prompted by his success to attempt a much
longer and more ambitious effusion on the joust of Giuliano.
Although written in Italian, the Stanze read like a translation,
or at least adaptation, from some classical author. His
Poesie Varie or minor poems are more original.
In the sphere of poetry these are perhaps the only works
which merit distinct mention. Regarding prose, the character-
istic product of the age, and clearly derived from the study
of Plato, is the Dialogue. This was the form in which
Galileo, long after, published his conclusions, but in the six-
teenth century it was put out of fashion by the grammarians.
The chief work of the sort belonging to the age with which
we are now dealing is // Governo di Famiglia, formerly
attributed to Agnolo Pandolfini, but of which Leone Battista
Alberti, who wrote also on architecture, appears to have been
THE GOLDEN AGE. THE PROSE-WRITERS.
AT the commencement of the sixteenth century Italian
literature had already completed its cycle. After this, although
there was no lack of writers, no new forms were developed,
and, except in prose, hardly any real progress was made in the
art of composition. Yet the era has been named, for reasons
which will shortly appear, the Golden Age. A good deal of
misconception exists with regard to the personages who,
either as authors or patrons of literature, attained distinction
during this period, especially two, of whom it will be
necessary to speak at some length, since the one has been
unjustly maligned, the other not less unjustly extolled.
These are Leo X and Machiavelli. The general opinion
of the former is that he was, not indeed a model Pope, but
with respect to culture, the incarnation almost of good taste,
the Augustus of the sixteenth century. There is no doubt
some colour for this belief the Pope was at least a scholar
yet it is certain that Leo X cared infinitely more for the
aggrandizement of the Medici than learning or the fine arts.
A notable instance of his hatred of candour and true dignity
in others is his behaviour to Michelagnolo, and the writers to
whom he owes his fame were courtiers, mere venal scribes,
Ch. V.] THE PR OSE- WRITERS. 55
hardly more worthy of esteem than the clowns with whom
at other times the Supreme Pontiff took his pleasure. With
the exception of Raffael, not a great man then living profited
by Leo's favour. Patronage of men of learning was indeed
one of the attributes of a prince, but the persons whom Leo
elected to subsidize were, in many instances, teachers of
rhetoric or grammar with no obvious claim on his generosity.
Ariosto was rewarded by an empty kiss on the cheek.
Machiavelli, whom he had commissioned to draw up a con-
stitution for Florence, provoked his displeasure by his pa-
triotic republican ardour. The scheme was torn up and
Machiavelli left unrewarded. Giannotto and Nardi fared
no better. It is hard to perceive therefore in what way
literature was benefited by the pontificate of Leo X.
The conduct of the other Medici, several of whom were
prominent during the same epoch, testifies to a similar
degeneracy. Nevertheless, the chief historic interest of the
period, so far as Italy is concerned, centres around this
remarkable family, and the most dramatic event in the annals
of the time is the attempt of the Florentines in 1527 to
shake off their yoke. Most of the prose-writers of the age
were mixed up in this affair, and it forms the subject of
several histories to which allusion will be made in the sequel.
At present we must return to Machiavelli, whose character,
after centuries of calumny and misrepresentation, has been
in some measure rehabilitated. He is now acknowledged to
occupy in prose a position similar to that of Dante in poetry,
and to be unquestionably the most colossal figure in the
literature of the sixteenth century.
Kiccold Machiavem (1469-1527) was the son of a learned
jurisconsult and a poetess, and he seems to have inherited
an equal degree the talents and inclinations of both his
56 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
parents. He entered into the public affairs of Florence, where
he held for some time the high office of Secretary of the
Republic. Being a warm lover of freedom, however, he in-
curred the suspicions of those who were bent on subverting
the old institutions, and was deprived of his post. He there-
upon retired to his country-house, and devoted himself to the
composition of those works which have since gained for him
universal interest and renown. The most famous of them is
// Principe, a scientific presentment of certain very abstruse
results which he had accomplished in his commentary on
Livy a treatise on political science. In spite of its evil
savour, it was written, there is every reason to believe, with
the best intentions. The actual design of Machiavelli is to
show on what terms sovereignty can be attained and upheld,
human nature remaining what it is. // Principe at first sight
presents no ideal, and this is probably the reason for the dis-
appointment and disgust with which many, especially modern,
readers have perused it. Certainly Machiavelli takes a very
low view of ordinary morality, but the facts with which ob-
servation and experience had rendered him familiar in practical
life, justified and almost necessitated this pessimism. Machia-
velli had a political, as well as a scientific aim, in writing the
book, and it was not adverse to liberty. He looked (as he
tells us clearly in the last sentence) for the regeneration of Italy,
the expulsion of the foreigner, the unity of rule. His work,
in fact, was composed with a view to the freeing of his country
by some petty prince whose skill and genius, assisted by the
counsels of wise men, were to do what indeed was done later
by the Savoyard princes. All this was perfectly understood
at the time, and, had it been otherwise, Machiavelli's career
is eloquent in his defence. His other works also strongly
make for the assumption that // Principe was an honest book.
V.] THE PROSE-WRITERS. 57
Instead of this it came to be regarded as a convenient manual
for tyrants, and it is probable that no book has ever done
more harm to its author or more mischief to humanity.
Charles V, Catherine de Medicis, Henri III and Henri IV,
made it their daily companion, and its fame having reached the
Levant, Mustapha III caused it to be translated into Turkish.
More recently Napoleon Buonaparte is said to have studied
it in the hope of discovering some hints for the maintenance
of his huge and ill-gotten empire.
Very different from // Principe are Machiavelli's Discorsi
on the first ten books cf Livy, the ethical portions of the latter
being quite unexceptionable. The Discorsi were written in
order to illustrate modern history by the light of past events,
and the author takes occasion to refer at length to various
questions of contemporary interest, notably in the tenth
chapter of the twelfth book, where he discusses the hindrances
to Italian unity. Another work of Machiavelli somewhat
resembling the last is his Dialogues on the Art of War, in
which he displays a deep and, for a layman, astonishing
acquaintance with military science. He distinguished him-
self also as a historian. If Villani is the Herodotus of Italy,
Machiavelli is her Thucydides. Between them there had been
no prose-writers of importance. True, there had been Latin
historians, Leonardo Aretino, Poggio Bracciolini, and Bembo,
men of sufficient note in their way, but their mode of treating
history was extremely artificial, while the writings of Corio
and Malvolti are woefully lacking in style. To Machiavelli
therefore pertains the honour of restoring historical literature
in Italy. His chief work in this department is his History of
Florence, which is in every way remarkable. He begins with
a general survey of European history, from the fall of the
Roman Empire to the rise of the Italian Republics, a
58 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
precedent which has been followed by nearly all the greater
historians. Not only in this introduction but also in the
main body of the narrative Machiavelli writes as a philosopher,
not content with stringing together a number of facts, but
seeking to arrange them so as to show their inter-dependence.
The style is admirable lucid, piquant, and free from man-
nerisms, the model of what a historical style should be.
The next considerable name in the roll of historians is that of
his countryman and contemporary, Guicciardini ( 148 2-1 5 40).
He was one of the prime movers in the counter-revolution
which made Cosimino de' Medici Duke of Florence. Guic-
ciardini had stipulated as his reward that he himself should be
the young man's foster-father and his daughter duchess. No
sooner, however, had Cosimino secured himself on the throne
of Florence than he immediately ignored these pledges, and
Guicciardini withdrew in high dudgeon to his country-house
at Arcetri. To console himself for this mortifying defeat, he
wrote a general history of Italy, commencing from the descent
of Charles VIII and extending to the year 1534. This work
is of great importance, since the events which it records had
the effect of so fixing the political conditions of Italy that
they remained unaltered to the French Revolution. More-
over, Guicciardini is not only an excellent writer, but he
possesses what is an indispensable requisite in a historian
a sincere love of the truth.
It is a favourite charge to bring against Guicciardini that
he is diffuse, that his sentences are too long, and one editor,
by a copious use of commas and full stops, has pla-ced him in
splints. This process of rectification, however, has not had
the desired effect, for the intricacy and length of Guicciardini's
periods are due, not to carelessness, but to complexity of
thought. A feature which he shares with Machiavelli and
V.] THE PROSE-WRITERS. 59
other writers of the age is that of manufacturing speeches and
putting them into the mouths of real personages. This
habit they borrowed from the ancients, but it lends an air of
unreality to their pages, making them seem romance rather
than history. Less illustrious than Guiccardini as a writer,
but more estimable as a man, is Jacopo Nardi(i 476-1555)?
who, after failing in an attempt to restore the republic, with-
drew to Venice and occupied himself with literature. He
produced an admirable version of the first ten books of Livy
and an arid history of the revolution of 1527. Bernardo
Segni (1504-1558), another historian of the same dramatic
episode, was blest with a more attractive style. He was a
diligent translator and a member of the Florentine Academy,
but the work by which he hoped to win favour with posterity
was his history. It was written in defence of his maternal
uncle, Niccolo Capponi, a noble patriot, who died of grief at
seeing his native city enslaved; and Segni composed it in
secrecy. The manuscript was found after his death and put
into the hands of Cosimo. The prince having discovered
that it was incapable of being edited on account of its plain-
spokenness, it was for a long time neglected, and when
eventually it was printed, bore the false imprint, Freiburg.
From these examples it became evident to Cosimo that he
could not hope to silence the historians. Whether he wished
it or not, they would write, taking as their theme the actions
of his ancestors and his own. He was driven therefore to
another expedient that of bribing authors. Among those
who were parties to this shameful bargain was Messer Bene-
detto Varchi (1502-1565), the story of whose adventures is
ludicrous as well as sad. A very learned man, he was a perfect
child in the ways of the world. When therefore he was re-
quested by Cosimo to draw up a history of the times, he
60 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch .
accepted the commission with delight. He had made some
progress with the work when he submitted it to Cosimo's
hearing. The style was tedious, but that did not offend the
Duke half as much as the statements which were surprisingly
frank, and Benedetto had to be reminded by a prick of the
stiletto that princes are not persons to be trifled with. Hence
at the close of his work there is a marked change of tone.
The other Medici might be sinners above all men, but the
present occupant of the throne could not be excelled. He
was an angel of light. Two other writers in the pay of
Cosimo, Scipione Ammirato (1531-1601) and Giovanni
Batista Adriani (1512-1579), adopted another method of
escaping his resentment, without distorting facts, i.e. whenever
they came to anything awkward, they passed it over in silence.
Neither is deserving of much regard.
All these writers were natives of Florence. Elsewhere in
the peninsula the most distinguished historian was Camillo
Porzio (1526-1603), who wrote an account of the conspiracy
of the barons against Ferdinand of Naples, a little work
which is almost unique in respect of terseness and elegance.
A general history of the kingdom of Naples was composed by
Angelo di Costanzo (1507-1591), who bestowed on it in-
finite pains, but who with all his talents and industry failed to
reach Porzio' s high level of excellence in this branch of litera-
ture. Angelo was also renowned as a Petrarchist. As the
result of a movement to which we shall immediately refer,
history now degenerated into a mere exhibition of style. As
examples of these deliciae may be cited the Europa of Giam-
bullari and the Storie of Daniello Bartoli, which were
greatly appreciated at the time, but, except as evidence of a
perverse tendency, do not come within the sphere of this dis-
cussion. A wholesome corrective might have been found in
V.] THE PROSE-WRITERS. 6l
the works of Tacitus which Bernardo Davanzati (1529
1606), remembered also as one of the earliest writers on
political economy, translated about this time. Unluckily
Davanzati himself was too much infected with the vices of his
age to be of much service in bringing about a reform.
The Latinists of the sixteenth century were succeeded in
the next by the grammarians, who applied themselves to
purifying the Italian language, and formed themselves into a
school of critics. The reader will not have forgotten the
Accademia Platonica, whose resolution in the time of Lorenzo
the Magnificent had produced so beneficial an effect on
Italian literature. Somewhat on the model of this institution,
but at first without official recognition, was established
another academy, whose members dubbed themselves umidi.
Cosimo, always on the watch for opportunities of strengthen-
ing his position, determined to give it his sanction. / He
altered its name to Accademia Fiorentina, and appointed as
its officers a consul and two councillors. After this institution
had been some time in existence, a schism arose among its
members, and Anton Francesco Grazzini (1503-1583),
better known by the name of Lasca, was expelled. Un-
willing to give up criticism, he joined with several friends
in forming a private club, in which for their own diversion
they discoursed on literature. The celebrated Lionardo
Salviati was invited to their assemblies, and on his proposal
a regular academy was instituted, with the quaint description
4 della Crusca/ The meaning of cruse a in Italian is ' bran,'
which the baker separates from flour by bolting ; and the
new academy, conformably with its title, undertook the task
of freeing the vernacular from improper ingredients. The
members fixed on the fourteenth century as the age of gold,
and among the writers of that period selected, as was most
62 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
natural, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio as models. The
choice of the first was inevitable, it was hopeless to think of
deposing the greatest of Florentines from the place which he
occupied in public esteem, but more after the Dellacruscan
mind, to which their very faults seemed virtues, were the lesser
lights, Petrarch and Boccaccio.
In order to expedite their plan the academicians resolved
to compile a dictionary, a notable undertaking which could
hardly fail to be serviceable to the Italians themselves and to
other nations which might perchance imitate it. A question
arose as to the proper name of the language. In the earliest
times, as we have seen, it was called Sicilian, and afterwards,
because that province had been most prolific in writers and
those of the highest distinction, Tuscan. Among the cities
of Tuscany, however, Florence was easily the first in cultiva-
tion and refinement, and the speech of the people approached
most closely to the literary dialect. The Dellacruscans there-
fore proposed to christen the language Florentine. A fierce
controversy broke forth on the subject, and the whole
peninsula was in arms for the Italian character of the
language. It was a propos of this that Georgio Trissino
published his translation of Dante's De Vulgar i Eloquentia,
in which, as has been before shown, the author impartially
condemned the dialects of all the cities, including his own.
The contest was accentuated and rendered personal by a
quarrel between Ludovico Castelvetro and Annibale Caro,
over a poem which the former had written in honour of the
Royal House of France and Caro had sharply criticised.
The world of letters split itself into two camps, and Varchi,
the historiographer of Cosimo, leapt into the fray with his
enormous tome Ercolano, wherein he laboured to prove, in
several hundred pages, that the language ought to be called
THE PROSE-WRITERS. 63
Florentine. Varchi, however, neither convinced nor quelled
his adversaries, and the dispute went on smouldering for a
century or more.
The most noted member of this celebrated academy was
Salviati, who will always be remembered as a persecutor of
Tasso. Under the pseudonym of ^Nfarinato and assisted by
a companion in arms, Bastiano de' Rossi, whose nickname
was 'Nferrigno, Salviati wrote several polemical pieces against
the poet, designed to tarnish the laurels which the latter had
so worthily won. Tasso attempted a reply and in it sought
to defend the memory of his father Bernardo, whom Salviati
had brutally assailed. Tasso 1 s mild expostulations, however,
only provoked a fresh attack. Salviati, betaking himself to
Ferrara, prevailed on the Duke Alfonso, whom the poet had
extolled in his Gerusalemme, basely to accept the dedication
of a book by which Tasso was finally suppressed. Of that
It is impossible to believe the fascination which these
puerilities exercised over the most variously constituted minds.
The rage for them seems to have been universal. Isabella
Orsini, the daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, indited a treatise
on the adverb mai y and the illustrious Galileo, when thirty
years of age and therefore fully capable, one might have
thought, of estimating such matters at their true value, turned
his attention to grammar and helped to plague the soul of
poor Tasso. One of the most characteristic products of this
insipid school was the cicalata, a kind of mock oration on
some trivial subject, the Lemon perhaps or Tarts. Originally
it was an after-dinner speech delivered at a banquet which
was given by the consul of the Academy on the day when he
took office. Hence it became a recognized form of com-
position for all who delighted in such inanities.
64 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
Turning from this folly to works to which may be applied
the term ' literature/ we are at once struck with the luxuri-
ance of the novel. During the reign of the humanists it had
been by no means eradicated, but had clothed itself in a rind
of Latin, in which it was cultivated by innumerable aspirants.
The most noteworthy perhaps of these Latin novels are the
Facetiae of Poggio Bracciolini. After the revival of interest
in the vernacular literature, the novel regained its place as
the most popular form of literature. Here also Machiavelli
is facile princeps. He is said by Bandello to have written
several tales, but only his Belfegor has survived to our days.
Conceived in a comic spirit, it is full of inimitable touches of
life and character, and the style is at once graceful and
vigorous. The Accademia della Crusca, which in this par-
ticular set no very great store by Machiavelli's productions,
made an exception of Belfegor, and placed it in the canon
of Italian classics.
Another novelist, and one of the most original writers of
the age, was Lasca, already mentioned as the founder of the
Dellacruscan Academy. His forte was undoubtedly personal
satire, but unfortunately Lasca was not in a position to do
justice to himself. He was one of a class to which the
sixteenth century gave rise, the professional litterateur^ and
being compelled to earn his living by his pen, he was unable
to give to his works that artistic finish which, had circum-
stances been more propitious, with his splendid endowments,
he could no doubt have imparted to them. Finding that the
fashion set entirely towards fiction, and that the world was
being flooded with Diver timenti, Notti, Diporti, Mesate,
Ecatommithi and such like, Lasca, who had at first protested,
made his appearance in the same field and produced his
Cene, in which, forsaking the quaintnesses and fopperies of
V.] THE PROSE-WRITERS. 65
Firenzuola ; he brought back the language to a manly
simplicity and directness. Instead of basing his style on the
humours of the grammarians, he drew upon the resources of
the spoken language, and this feature, more than the vividness
of his portraiture, constitutes the peculiar excellence of his
writings. The truth of this observation will become more
evident if we compare the novels of Lasca with those of
Molza, Parabosco, Luigi da Porto, and Bandello. The
difference is to be attributed to the superior charm of the
Tuscan dialect, which gave the natives of that province an
immense advantage over non-Tuscan writers. For all that,
Bandello, with the sole exception of Machiavelli, is incompar-
ably greater than the Florentines, and on the score of pro-
ductiveness even Machiavelli must be postponed to him.
Bandello devoted himself exclusively to novel-writing (in
which he was the first after Boccaccio to achieve distinction),
and amid the swarm of story-tellers who, in proportion to
their readers, were as numerous then as they are now stands
forth as the most original. He introduced nothing new in
the form of the novel, but, uniting the character of the
historian with that of the novel-writer, depicted with quite
marvellous fidelity the outer life of his contemporaries.
The novels of the period exhibit an almost painful
uniformity. As to the nature of these compositions, refer-
ence has already been made to the immorality of the
Decamerone, and it has been considered how far Boccaccio
is accountable therefor. The writings of the succeeding
age, oddly as it strikes us, whilst indulging in the same
freedom, affect pious sentiments. Even Pietro Aretino boldly
professes to be moved by a desire for the glory of God and
the benefit of his fellow men. The half or wholly hypo-
critical plea of these philanthropists is that it is necessary, if
66 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
people are to swallow the wholesome draught, to smear the
vessel's edge with a sweet liquid.
But these writers were realists who drew their materials
impartially and cynically from the life which they saw around
them. At the same time the spirit of reform was in the air,
as was evident at the Council of Trent, and to this was due
the canting and apologetic tone of the professors of an art
which was essentially profane. Some novelists, it is true, like
Sebastiano Erizzo in his Sei Giornate and Cinzio Giraldi
in his Ecatommitti) sought to liberate themselves from the
debasing traditions of their craft, and wrote wholly on moral
lines ; but, partly from lack of ability, they quite failed in their
mission. In any case the people did not ask to be edified.
As a class these novels have other defects also. They display
considerable invention, but little tact in the development of
the plot, and being confined to a few pages, they have the
appearance of sketches or jottings for some larger work.
Again, the unbroken continuity of the narrative, almost un-
enlivened by snatches of conversation in which the actors are
permitted to speak for themselves, deprives these works of the
dramatic interest good modern novels exhibit, and which in
Italy at this period belongs rather to the dialogue.
One kind of composition which deserves a passing
mention is that which consists in imitation of the classic
satirical novels of the popular Apuleius and Lucian. The
most important of these writings are Gelli's Capricci del
Bottaio and Circe and the Discorsi degli Animali and Asino
d' Oro of Firenzuola, all of which were extremely popular in
their day and translated into several foreign languages.
The dialogue, of which an instance was quoted at the close
of the last chapter, now acquired extraordinary vogue. Per-
haps the most noteworthy specimen of these polished didactic
V.] THE PROSE-WRITERS. 6j
colloquies is the Cortegiano of Baldassare Castiglione
(1478-1529). The author was a perfect type of the gentle-
man of the period, and he sets before us a faithful portrait of
the ideals of the Court of Urbino to which he belonged, and
which was a meeting-place of all that was distinguished in
rank or intellect throughout the peninsula. // Cortegiano has
its full share of defects. It abounds in the ineptitudes which
are so marked a characteristic of the age, but in style it leaves
little to be desired. In this respect it will worthily compare with
the writings of Tasso and Sperone Speroni, whose achieve-
ments in the higher departments of literature have caused
their prose lucubrations to be in some measure forgotten.
The dialogue, as has been said, owed its development to the
revival of learning, principally, no doubt, to a translation of
Plato's works which was published towards the end of the
.Jdrteenth century by Marsilio Ficino.
Another result of these studies was the impetus they gave
to letter -writing. Guittone's example does not appear to
have been generally followed, and the true source of inspira-
tion was beyond question the letters of Cicero and Pliny,
together with the spurious epistles of Plato, which erudite
Italians burned to imitate. Among the first to print his
letters was Pietro Aretino, greatly to the distress of the more
respectable portion of society which he had omitted to con-
sult. Amid much extravagance of language and thought,
they show considerable power of expression and help to in-
terpret the life of the Venetian society in which he and
Titian and other men of mark moved. Better in every way
are the epistles of Tasso, Speroni and Bembo ; but even
these, in freedom and choice of language, hardly attain to
the level of some Tuscan writers notably Giovanni della
Casa (1503-1 556), whose studied efforts, such as his Galateo,
68 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
on the contrary, are stilted and full of mannerisms. Apart
from these, perhaps the best letter- writer of the age is Anni-
bale Caro, the antagonist of Ludovico Castelvetro, and an
excellent critic. Others prefer Bonfadio, who wrote some
charming epistles ; but taken as a whole his letters do not
exhibit that grace and fluency which are the chief distinction
of Caro's and constitute the primary merit of this species of
No notice of this age would be complete which did not
include two celebrated writers, who have a common centre
in art, and who both wrote their own biographies. The first
is Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo (1511-1574); the second, Ben-
venuto Cellini of Florence (1500-1571). Vasari, a pupil of
the great Michelangelo, but himself of no high merit as a
painter, published in 1550 Vite de piu eccellenti Pittori, Scul-
tori ed Architetti. The author put forth a second edition of
the work, greatly enlarged and improved, in 1568. Being a
dutiful vassal of the Medici, who employed him to decorate
the Palazzo Vecchio, Vasari dedicated the book to the Duke
Cosimo. Vasari was well qualified for his task. He was
distinguished by infinite enthusiasm for the arts, as well as
by inexhaustible industry in research ; if he was not a first-
rate practitioner, he at least possessed good taste, to which
he added an adequate knowledge of the technique of the
subject, as is shown by the elaborate treatise which forms
the preface of his work. For modern readers the charm of
the book undoubtedly lies in the vivid portraits which it con-
tains of the artists themselves. Vasari had a keen eye for
character, and he was prompt to seize on typical actions,
and sometimes strange aberrations, for illustrating the true
nature of the men whose career he was describing. These
' touches of nature ' redeem the Vite of Vasari from being a
THE PROSE-WRITERS. 69
mere catalogue of works of art, and invest them with human
interest. Vasari has had many editors who have studied to
correct his mistakes, of which, as was natural in so large and
varied a compilation, there were not a few.
Cellini was a goldsmith, and skilled in all the mysteries of
his craft. He piqued himself also on his literary attainments,
and wrote himself down a poet, but his claims in this respect
cannot be allowed without some important reservations. It
is undeniable that he owes his world-wide celebrity to his
pen ; but, although a diligent student of Villani and Dante,
Cellini was a very faulty writer. Errors either in grammar
or syntax appear on every page indeed, it is hardly too
much to say, in every line. With all this, his autobiography
is very pleasant reading. Cellini lived in days of unwonted
excitement, and had his full share of adventures. He was at
Rome at the time of the sack, and assisted in the defence of
the Castel S. Angelo ; he was thrown into prison on a false
charge, and made a bold attempt to escape by letting himself
down from a tower ; and he came in contact with many
notable persons artists, men of letters, popes, and princes.
Out of these varied experiences, he has woven a narrative
which could scarcely be excelled in interest, while at the
same time it bears the stamp of truth.
THE GOLDEN AGE. THE POETS.
WHILE literature, in a general way, suffered from the cul-
tivation of mere elegance, one species displayed unparalleled
vigour and went far to justify the complimentary description
of the sixteenth century as the Golden Age. The allusion is
of course to the Italian epic. In the fourth chapter its history
was traced as far as to the publication of Boiardo's Orlando.
As was there observed, the epic was popular in its origin,
and such it remained. The learned might debate, if they
chose, about the rules for the construction of a poem on the
model of the Iliad, but the people did not lose their taste for
romance ; and they were soon to be gratified by a superb
composition, which at once threw into the shade all previous
performances, and which has never since been equalled.
^ Ludovico Ariosto (14741533) \vas born at Reggio and
attached himself to the House of Este at Ferrara, which Count
Boiardo had already celebrated in his Orlando. Notwith-
standing the fact that he had from the first cherished an un-
bounded admiration for that great poem, Ariosto was so far
infected by the prevailing fashion as to begin his career of
authorship with dramatic compositions imitated from Terence
and Plautus. The epic Orlando, however, retained its attrac-
tions for Ariosto, who, perceiving its defects, might have been
VI.] THE POETS. 71
tempted to recast it, as was afterwards done by Berni, but
that an inborn sense of genius wrought with him to essay
something original and containing the promise of a nobler
fame. When he had decided to write an epic, he requested
the learned Bembo for advice. That admirable scholar was
not a foe to the Italian vernacular in general, but, like others
of his order, entertained a rooted prejudice to the romance.
He accordingly recommended Ariosto to compose his poem in
Latin. Fortunately Ariosto had sufficient independence to
disregard this advice and write in Italian. Another point
on which the poet seems to have hesitated was the metre.
Dante's terza rima was the stateliest, but in epic vernacular
composition the ottava was prescriptive, and therefore not
lightly to be set aside. There was this objection to its use
that Ariosto's scholarly predecessors had neglected it,
the only exception being the polished Stanze of Poliziano.
It was in all probability this precedent which confirmed
Ariosto in the resolution not to abandon the traditional
metre, and it would have been lamentable if he had deter-
mined otherwise. Ariosto's genius was itself too rich and
luxuriant, and the nature of Italian romantic ptfetry too fan-
tastic and airy, for any but the freest and most exuberant
of metres. The subject of the poem is Orlando [Roland],
whom Ariosto conceives to be driven mad by the cruelty of
Angelica. Hence the title Orlando Furioso. After ten years'
toil the great poem first saw the light in 1516. It was recog-
nised as a continuation of Boiardo's romance, and therefore,
it was thought, could only be properly appreciated after a
perusal of this last. That in a sense is true. Ariosto con-
sciously followed in the wake of his predecessor ; neverthe-
less the impression left by the Orlando Furioso is perfectly
individual and distinct. Ariosto was no servile copier of
7 2 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
Boiardo, any more than Boiardo had been of Pulci. Certain
types of character were traditional, and other points of corre-
spondence between the two poems, such as the passages in
which the author addresses his readers in propria persona, are
common to the class and are far from implying on the part
of Ariosto any special dependence on his immediate model.
All this in reference to the subject-matter and general de-
sign. When we come to examine the details we are at once
sensible of an immense advance. The rude workmanship of
Boiardo's Orlando is nowhere reflected in that of Ariosto,
whose touch is always sure.
One of the more conspicuous merits of Ariosto' s poem is
its infinite variety. We may take as an instance his descrip-
tion of personal combats, of which, as is natural in a chival-
rous composition, there is a constant succession. Yet no two
of his duels are alike. His personages also, though they may
exhibit a general resemblance, are never to be confounded.
Rodomonte, we feel, is distinct from Ferrau. Mandricardo
is not Gradasso, nor Ruggiero, Orlando. This appears faint
praise, until we remember that Ariosto was not a free agent.
He was not in a position to deal summarily with the creations
of popular fancy, which in their way were just as real and
palpable as the shapes of history, and he was especially ham-
pered by the uniformity of the actions which produced a cor-
responding likeness in the actors. If, therefore, diversity in
the characters was desired, it could only be brought about by
close attention to particulars.
It is in his mastery of detail that Ariosto evinces his
superiority. His similes often surprise us by their force
and felicity, joined sometimes to a certain homeliness as for
instance when he compares Orlando's inexpressible anguish
on finding proof of Angelica's treachery to the efforts of water,
VI.] THE POETS. 73
when the vessel containing it is inverted, to issue through the
narrow exit. To all these virtues must be added perfection
of style. Of this no better evidence is needed than the fact
that the Tuscans, who were commonly very unwilling to con-
cede this praise to anyone outside their own province, were
among the most reverent admirers of the Orlando Furioso.
Notwithstanding, however, Ariosto's unremitting study of the
best authors, the first edition of his poem was not exempt
from solecisms. There were Lombard words and phrases,
Lombard spellings, which detracted somewhat from the other-
wise happy effect. Owing to circumstances, the nature of
which has not been ascertained, it fell to his lot to pass some
time in Florence, and Ariosto seems to have availed himself
of this opportunity to correct his inadvertences. At any rate,,
in 1532, sixteen years after the first, a second edition ap-
peared, which came as near to perfection as it could well be
This fact is deserving of note, as hardly any poetry pro-
duces in the mind of the reader such a sense of spontaneity
as that of the Orlando. The verse is so fluent that we can
scarcely persuade ourselves that Ariosto took any trouble
over it. Yet his manuscripts testify that as an artist he was
conscientious in the extreme. Some of his stanzas, indeed,
were written no less than fifty times. That they run so
smoothly and pleasantly after so much labour is the final
proof of Ariosto's supreme attainments. In spite of its many
and varied merits the poem has not gone unchallenged. One
difficulty, which has exercised the minds of some, respects the
unity of the poem. It has been looked upon as a string of
inconsequent episodes, involving no general plot; and it must
be admitted that there is much on a casual reading to excuse
such a view. Further study will reveal that there are two or
74 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
three principal groups, around which the minor figures are
ranged as accessories. Amidst a number of less important
incidents, the dominating facts, to which all else is ancillary,
are Charlemagne's enterprise against the Saracens, Orlando's
frenzy, and the marriage of Ruggiero and Bradamante. An-
other defect which has given just offence is the frequency of
monologues in which the personages with a tiresome garrulity
enlarge on their sorrows. In some of these speeches it is
easy to detect the falsetto as of some Petrarchist who tries to
fancy himself in love. But, after all, such faults are not
serious, and considering the greatness of the poem, it would
be ungracious to insist on them. The Orlando Furioso is an
imperishable monument of the height to which imagination
can attain in its more favoured representatives.
Ariosto's success could not but affect the fortunes of the
Orlando Innamorato. Its want of style, which had never
been in doubt, was rendered more than ever apparent by
comparison with its successor, and it was precisely at this
juncture that Berni produced the celebrated rifacimento.
Berni, however, himself (1497-1535) is sufficiently interest-
ing to merit an independent notice. He was a Florentine of
good family ; but, as his means were small, his only resource
was to become a hanger-on at Court. The consequences in
his case were tragic. He made himself acceptable both to
Alessandro and Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici ; but, the rela-
tions between the pair being anything but cordial, the story
goes that Berni was requested by Alessandro to poison his
kinsman. The poet was horrified, and refused; but his
patron, having found other means of ridding himself of his
cousin, soon after, in anger at his recusancy, poisoned the
unhappy Berni. Fortune had all along been unkind to him.
He had every qualification for becoming a great poet, but
VI.] THE POETS. 75
the atmosphere in which he lived was fatal to his intellectual
development. Before he undertook the revision of the
Orlando Innamorato his talents had been chiefly employed
on a species of poetry which has been named after him
bernesque, and the origin of which was as follows.
Among other expedients to which Lorenzo de' Medici
resorted for making his usurpation more palatable to the
Florentines was his encouragement of public shows, especi-
ally during the carnival season, when masked troops were
wont to parade the city singing. For the ditties hitherto in
vogue were substituted by Lorenzo certain rigmaroles, which
were afterwards known as carnescialeschi, and the performers
simulated drunkenness. These effusions were written by the
best poets of the day, including Machiavelli, to order ; but
Berni had a distinct predilection for them, and in the number
and variety of his writings far outstripped his competitors.
Towards the end of his life there seems to have dawned on
him a sense of his extraordinary powers, and of the miserable
waste he had made of them ; he accordingly resolved to re-
deem what time there was left him by application to some
work which would ensure his remembrance.
To write an epic appeared the best road to fame, but Berni
was well advised in not attempting one. After the Orlando
Furioso it could only have been felt as an anticlimax. Berni
set himself to a more humble task, and sought by a tasteful
revision of the Orlando Innamorato to render it more worthy
of its fellow. This he effected with a considerable degree of
skill, and it is due to his pains that Boiardo's poem is still
read and esteemed. But, although an amendment of the
style was all Berni' s contribution, even in this he cannot be
allowed unqualified praise. The truth is his previous occu-
pation somewhat unfitted him for writing in a dignified strain
7 6 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
such as becomes an epic. Colloquialisms were quite in place
in the canti carnascialeschi ; in a poem like the Orlando they
are an offence. Nothing, however, can be more unfair than
to tax Berni with the design of turning the whole work into
a burlesque. In confutation of such a theory it is only neces-
sary to point to the manifest improvement which has resulted
from his labours. Berni invested a poem, grandly conceived
indeed, but imperfectly executed, with the rich and incom-
parable graces of his native dialect, and therefore it is with
justice that he divides the credit of the performance with the
Meanwhile there had appeared certain poems which were
more or less feeble imitations of the Orlando Furioso, the
most notable being the Girone of Luigi Alamanni (1495
1556) and Bernardo Tasso's (1493-1569) Amadigi. The
latter is remarkable chiefly on account of its subject, for until
then writers of epics had drawn their materials almost exclu-
sively from the Carlo vingian cycle. But neither this innova-
tion nor the merits of the poem need arrest us. It is as clear
as the day that Ariosto completely defied competition. Par-
tially, perhaps, out of a recognition of this fact, poets, or those
who aspired to the name, sought for laurels in a different
field, occupying themselves indeed with the composition of
epics on the model of the Iliad and Aeneid. The first to
attempt this experiment was Gian Giorgio Trissino (1478-
1550). His industry, however, was lamentably thrown away.
Choosing as his theme the expedition of Belisarius against
the Goths, who had invaded Italy and menaced her with
perpetual thraldom, he gave as title to his work, L Italia
Liberata. Trissino' s principle of selection was unexception-
able. Coleridge declared that an epic ought either to be
national or mundane. Trissino proposed to make his epic
VI.] THE POETS. 77
national, and if he went back to a somewhat remote stage of
Italian history, the antiquity of the subject might be expected
to lend it additional dignity. A priori all was favourable to
the execution of a really great work ; but it was just at this
point that Trissino broke down. His talents were absurdly
disproportioned to his opportunity. His faults are mainly
two. In the first place, he is not satisfied with copying Homer
he fairly reproduces him. The Eternal Father is a Zeus
redivivus, except for a few touches which could not be given
without manifest profanity. As for the other gods of Olympus,
they are represented by the celestial hierarchy. This perhaps
might pass if Trissino had shown any capacity to go alone ;
but at every step he shows his dependence on Homer, stealing
his best episodes only to mar them.
In fact L' Italia Liberata is a travestie. The poem was
written in blank verse, and this was another reason serving
to render it unpopular. It seems doubtful whether Trissino
or the historian Nardi, in various now-forgotten comedies,
was the first to employ this sort of verse in Italian ; but certain
it is that the experiment as an epic verse did not please. Of
the different forms which poetry can assume there is none
which requires more delicate handling than this blank verse,
which sinks with fatal facility into prose, and in an age which
was tolerant of cicalate Trissino was found insufferable. The
calamitous issue of an attempt from which he had hoped so
much was calculated to put others on their guard, and in
some instances may have had that effect. There were,
however, some spirits who, not perceiving this and flattering
themselves that they could succeed where Trissino had failed,
reiterated the effort.
Trissino, with all his faults, was respectable for his learning ;
but among his followers were men, like Olivieri, who lacked
78 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
even this recommendation ; and their productions, such as the
Alamanna of this last, which was based on contemporary
history, were mere impertinences. But an exception must
be made in favour of an individual Luigi Alamanni who
has been already mentioned as the author of a romance, and
who, as will be seen later, composed an excellent didactic
Alamanni, although now almost forgotten, was a person
of considerable importance in his own day, both in the sphere
of politics and in that of letters. He conspired against Car-
dinal Giuliano, the representative of Leo X, and the plot
having been detected, he fled to Venice and eventually to
France. Some years later he returned to Florence, but,
having offered some unpalatable advice to the Republic,
he embarked, in company with the celebrated Andrea Doria,
for Spain. Finally, he made his abode in France, where
Francis I and Henry II availed themselves of his talents in
Alamanni was perfectly aware of the ill-success of
Z' Italia Liber ata, and he set himself to meditate on the
cause. He came to the conclusion that the fault lay in the
verse, and decided to write a poem similar in other respects,
but in the octave stanza. He drew his narrative from the
legends of the Round Table. Just as the Iliad was named
after the town of Ilium, so Alamanni' s poem is called Avar-
chide from the ancient name of Bourges, which in the same
way undergoes a siege and is at last captured. A further
analogy is found in the characters. Thus we have presented
to us, as it were, pseudonymously, Agamemnon, Achilles,
Thetis, Patroclus, who, with the fewest possible changes in
the stage furniture, rehearse their accustomed parts. The
result showed that Alamanni in his interpretation of Trissino's
VI.] THE POETS. 79
failure had erred. The Avar chide fared even worse than
L' Italia Liber ata. Indeed, after exciting a momentary in-
terest, it passed clean out of men's minds. In spite, however,
of all this, the Christian Italy of the Renascence was to have
her vates sacer the sublime Tasso.
This rare genius was the son of Bernardo Tasso, who had
gained a distinguished place in the literature of his country
by his romance Amadigi. But although he had himself won
renown as a writer, and perceived in his son indications of
still greater ability, he stumbled at the risks which he knew
to beset this pursuit, and tried to persuade Torquato to adopt
a more regular and lucrative profession. It should seem also
that something of jealousy, lest his son's reputation should
in time obscure his own, seconded these misgivings.
Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) was certainly a prodigy.
As a child of eight he read the classics, both Greek and
Latin ; at twelve he was versed in the sciences ; and at
eighteen he wrote an epic poem, Rinaldo. Upon reading
this Bernardo felt that he could no longer oppose his son's
inclinations by forcing him to a study so little to his mind as
jurisprudence. Stifling his parental fears and the less worthy
feelings by which he had been visited, he gave him his bless-
ing and suffered him to take his own course.
Rinaldo had been received with a chorus of approbation,
which emboldened Tasso to make fresh efforts. Like Luigi
Alamanni he reflected on the conditions of success, but more
in the spirit of a philosopher. He consequently attained to
a full and complete understanding of the theory of his art,
which no one has ever expounded more luminously. In
choosing his subject Tasso displayed great judgment. The
Gerusalemme Liberata was at once national and universal.
It was par excellence a religious poem ; and as Italy was the
80 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
centre and sun of Christendom, it set her special glory con-
spicuously before the world. But Catholic Christianity shed
its rays over the whole of Western Europe and claimed a
universal validity. In that sense the Gerusalemme Liberata
was of world-wide interest. In addition to this the poem
was in admirable accord with the circumstances of the age.
The Turks, not yet under the effete government they now
have, were pushing their conquests to the very walls of Vienna,
and it was proposed to form a league for the purpose of
Tasso's poem was the fruit of long and patient thought.
He left nothing to chance, to the inspiration of the moment,
but sketched the general plan and pondered even the details
before he sat down to write. His work when complete was
a marvel of simplicity. So distinct and beautiful is the sym-
metry that the only instance in which the principle of unity
is violated has excited the more remark. This is the story
of Olindo and Sofronia, which in its particular place is clearly
an intrusion. Tasso, who did not deny the justice of the
criticism, had a special motive for wishing to retain the pas-
sage, since it enabled him to express his own sentiments
towards the Princess Eleonora.
In his delineation of character Tasso idealises. His
Goffredo is the perfection of the Christian warrior. If there
is something godlike in the composition of his hero, it is little
more than we can reconcile With human nature at its best.
It must be admitted, however, that such faultless beings,
though conceivable, do not engage our sympathy. To the
ordinary mortal, conscious of much infirmity, they seem cold
and unamiable. The Gerusalemme presents a remarkable
contrast to the Orlando Furioso and its congeners, all of
which appealed to the barbaric element in man, the love of
VI.] THE POETS. 8 1
external show and colossal achievement. The Gerusalemme^
on the contrary, is a poem of civilisation, for Tasso was
careful to preserve, according to the ideas of the age, the
vraisemblance of his story, and his personages do not exe-
cute feats which are manifestly incongruous and absurd.
They bespeak our homage by a moral elevation which, though
more worthy of esteem, is in general less captivating than
frank achievement. In describing the enterprise for reco-
vering the Holy Sepulchre, Tasso was manifestly possessed
by feelings like those of Milton and the elder bards of
Greece and regarded his vocation as sacred. Look at it
from whatever point of view we may the moral or the
artistic the poem always strikes us by a certain impeccability.
The verse is of Hyblaean sweetness.
The Gerusalemme was no sooner published than a general
commotion arose. Ariosto was now firmly enthroned in the
hearts of the public, and there was an instinctive feeling that
he was threatened, that his supremacy was at stake. Hence
all the rancour of partisanship entered into the discussion of
the two poems. In an unlucky hour for Tasso a certain
Camillo Peregrino, a complete stranger to the poet, wrote a
book in which he sought to establish the superiority of the
Gerusalemme Liber ata to the Orlando. This avowed prefer-
ence for a new and ambitious attempt deeply annoyed the
members of the Accademia della Crusca, and the resources
of that formidable institution were employed for the ignoble
purpose of annihilating a great man. Salviati, already pointed
out as the ring-leader, drew a recantation from Peregrino by
the promise of an academic diploma. At length Tasso, the
mark of so many shafts, found himself isolated. The criti-
cisms of his enemies, so far as they had to do with the aesthetic
side of the poem, were dry and out of date. Tasso was tried
82 ITALIAN LITERATURE.
by laws to which his predecessors had conformed, but which
he himself had deliberately rejected. Blinded by their pre-
judices, and bound by the decisions of an infallible conclave,
his judges had no feeling for the exquisite charms with which
the Gerusalemme was everywhere resplendent. But in regard
to the style the academicians did detect faults. The Orlando
Furioso, it will be remembered, on its first appearance had
been open to the same censure. Tasso was so far shaken
by the pertinacity of these attacks that he actually re- wrote
the poem, to which, in its altered form, he gave the name of
Gerusalemme Conquistata. This was so much labour lost.
His contemporaries did not cease wrangling, and later
generations, more indulgent to its peccadilloes, have been
unanimous in preferring Gerusalemme Liberata.
The contest as to the superiority of Ariosto or Tasso is
really one which depends on individual taste. Ariosto repre-
sents one principle in literature, Tasso quite another. The
Orlando is the more sprightly poem it is full of energy and
verve. The Gerusalemme, on the contrary, has a noble dig-
nity, an air of refinement, a faultless beauty which are rare
in literature. The Gerusalemme is the quintessence of art,
while the Orlando almost throbs with the potency of genius.
Considering the admirable qualities of these two great poems,
it seems a little ungracious to prolong a controversy which
had its origin in the spleen of Tasso's enemies. There is
room in literature, and in the admiration of the wise, for
THE GOLDEN AGE. THE DRAMATISTS.
IN the fourth chapter some account was given of the
early history of the drama, and it was shown that its most
vigorous form was that of the sacred representations. On
the revival of learning these plays were treated as non-
existent, and the princes and scholars in whose hands the
fate of Italian literature now lay, resolved to introduce regular
dramatic compositions. With that object they drew upon the
works of Seneca, Plautus, and Terence. Foremost in the
task of restoration was Ercole I of Ferrara, who invited clever
men to his court and entrusted them with the duty of trans-
lating Latin plays into the vernacular. From this the transi-
tion to original dramas composed on the same principles was
easy, and we find that, in point of fact, only a year after
Plautus' Menaechmi had been given an Italian dress, several
attempts were made to vie with the classics. We may
take as instances the Cefalo of Wiccolo da Correggio, the
Filostrato e Panfila and Demetrio Re di Tele of Antonio da
Pistoia, and the Timone Misantropo of Boiardo. At Ferrara
also Ariosto commenced author by writing comedies, to
which we shall refer later in the chapter.
The first to write a drama on the model of Sophocles was
that bold, but not over successful experimenter, Gian Giorgio
84 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
Trissino. His Italia Liberate was, we have seen, a complete
failure. It is due to Trissino to say that his tragedy Sofonisba
came within an ace of success. It was designed with much
judgment, there was a scrupulous regard for the unities, and
the characters were happily conceived. The truth is the
play was admirable in outline ; where it failed was in respect
jo the details. Trissino had not a spark of true poetry, and
Ihis verse is exceedingly heavy and laboured. He displayed
a lack of ability also in his monologues, which were intended
to explain to the auditory the facts on which the drama
Of Trissino' s disciples the most eminent was Giovanni
Rucellai (1475-1526). He was not only a far better poet
than his master, but showed a praiseworthy independence in
the selection of a subject from mediaeval history. The tale
of Rosmunda, as it was less known to the generality of
people, afforded greater scope for invention than the ordinary
classical subjects ; and considering the arbitrary laws which
then governed dramatic composition, Rucellai must be
allowed to have exercised great taste and discrimination in his
presentment of it. The school of Trissino and Rucellai was
succeeded by writers like Sperone Speroni, whose idea of
tragedy was that of converting the stage into shambles.
Speroni was a sort of literary dictator, who imposed on his
contemporaries by sheer force of will, but who had no proper
qualifications with which to support the part. Thus, when
he ventured on writing a work of his own, he hedged it
round with every possible precaution. The proper test of
a drama ought to be its capacity for representation, but
Speroni had far too much regard for his good name to
submit his Canace to any such rude tribunal. Instead of
this he recited it to an assembly of academicians, of whose
VII.] THE DRAMATISTS. 85
applause he was certain. This carefulness, however, did not
prevent a report being spread, the existence of the work
became known, and in spite of all that Speroni could do to
stop it, Canace got into print. Finding that nothing could
hinder the circulation of the play, the author delivered six
lectures to the Academy in its defence, and excogitated also
an apology for the benefit of generations yet to come.
Canace had full need of these measures. The story, taken
from the Epistles of Ovid, is horribly revolting, and in
Speroni' s hands gains rather than loses in hideousness. Its
distinctive features are reproduced with some additional
touches in Giraldi's Orbecche, of which the scene is in Persia,
and which is composed of an agreeable variety of incest,
murder, and suicide. Giraldi was the writer of a long
Discorso intorno al comporre de* Romanzi, Commedie e Tragedie,
from which we should have anticipated better things from him
as a dramatist. Thus in theorizing on the subject he main-
tained that a drama should inculcate some sublime lesson,
but it is hard to see what moral we are to extract from his
Orbecche, except that the human race is incurably depraved.
Giraldi wrote, besides this, romances, novels, sonnets,
tragedies, and an epic poem in honour of Ercole II, Duke of
Ferrara. He nowhere, however, achieved any marked success.
The most notable tragedies of the hangman order after
Canace and Orbecche are the Arciprandra of Decio, the
Semiramide of Manfredi, and Mondella's Issipile, which all
appeared towards the middle of the sixteenth century. We
ought perhaps to mention, though the work has little or
no intrinsic merit, that Pietro Aretino, by some strange
freak, composed a tragedy in which he depicted the valour
of the Horatii and Curiatii, and introduced a chorus of
the Virtues !
86 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
All these dramas, whatever their comparative merits, must
yield to the Torrismondo of Torquato Tasso. This great
poet was, as has been already observed, a man of fine
scholarship and immense erudition. It is interesting there-
fore to learn that he thought Oedipus Rex the most perfect
specimen of Attic tragedy. Elated by the success of his
Amintci) which play will be noticed in its proper place, he
resolved to attempt a drama for which he would take as a
model the aforesaid masterpiece. In order to adhere more
closely to the type in question he determined to invent the
fable, and availing himself of sundry hints which he found in
the history of the Goths, proceeded to complicate a plot, of
which the de'noument is similar to that of the Oedipus.
Torrismondo must not be thought of as free from the faults of
its predecessors, but it has merits which they are without.
The wonderful intricacy, yet easy and natural develop-
ment of the plot, the splendour of the style, and the lovely
odes, which those of Sophocles himself only equal and do
not excel, are sufficient to place it in a category by itself.
There is indeed nothing wherewith to compare it until we
come, nearly two hundred years later, to the Merope of
Meanwhile the sister-art of comedy had not been neglected.
It had, on the contrary, been cultivated with greater zeal and
success than tragedy. Of those who distinguished themselves
in this study the first in point of time was Ariosto, who, to
please the Dukes of Ferrara, wrote two dramas, Cassaria
and / Suppositi. Twenty years after their first appearance
they were republished in a more perfect form, but in their
original shape there can be little doubt that they are the
earliest specimens of Italian comedy. Ariosto's plays, of
which he wrote seven, have been esteemed by many critics
VII.] THE DRAMATISTS. 87
the best which this century produced, but this is hardly just.
The highest place in the list must be reserved for the
Mandragola of Machiavelli. The comedies of Ariosto have
a strong family likeness, and in all of them the influence of
Plautus and Terence is plainly discernible, though it is not
so complete as to deprive them of all claims to originality.
The great feature in them is the intrigue, which is treated as
infinitely more important than the depicting of character.
These different objects to which the drama may be dedi-
cated subsequently led to the formation of two distinct
schools, named respectively commedia di intreccio and corn-
media di carattere.
Something should be said also about the metre in which
these plays were written hendecasyllabic sdrucciolo, accord-
ing to which each line consisted of five feet and terminated in
two unaccented syllables. Ariosto was a great master of
rhythm, but even he could not overcome the inherent faulti-
ness of this unwieldy metre, the difficulty of which had been
previously felt by Sannazaro. The adoption of this metre
was followed by significant results. Despite Ariosto' s repu-
tation as the author of Orlando Furioso, his comedies were
by no means highly esteemed, and attracted few imitators.
One or two individuals, however, ventured on fresh metrical
experiments. Pecchi, a Florentine, wrote quite a large
number of plays in plain hendecasyllabic verse, but they
were hopelessly dull ; and Luigi Alamanni invented a new
metre of sixteen syllables, and a sdrucciolo. Neither was
this popular. The majority of playwrights, after the poor
success of Ariosto, abandoned metre in despair and wrote
The first work of the sort in Italian literature was, it is
considered, the Calandra of Cardinal da Bibbiena, in which
88 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
were combined elegance of style and genuine humour. Since,
however, it does not differ materially from the plays already
described, there is no need to particularise it further. Indeed,
for the first thirty years of the sixteenth century, such pro-
ductions were marked by a wearisome sameness, with one
exception, the Mandragola of Machiavelli. We should gather
from the prologue that the play was founded on actual occur-
rences within the knowledge of the spectators a circum-
stance which must have added greatly to the interest of
the performance. The work, however, can do without this
help. The personages are drawn with striking vividness and
truth, the plot is cleverly devised, and the style natural. The
object of the play is to expose two kinds of pests infesting
Florentine society the parasite and the religious impostor.
The chief point for which Machiavelli has been censured is
his want of delicacy, but this is a fault which is common to
him with the age. Even Tasso, whose morals were above
reproach, will not bear to be tried by our standards of
modesty. Lasca's comedies are only remarkable for their
style, in which respect they are perfect.
This seems the most suitable place in which to refer to
Pietro Aretino, who has been previously mentioned, once in
connexion with his dialogues, and, secondly, in this present
chapter, as having composed a tragedy. Himself illegitimate,
he figured throughout his career as the apostle of obscenity
and impudence, and his scurrilous, mordant speech caused
him to be so much dreaded that the most powerful sovereigns
of the age Charles V, Francis I, and Clement VII deemed
it their interest to cultivate him. He was created a knight,
and pensions were bestowed on him, in order to engage his
silence. Pietro attempted all sorts of composition, writing
even on sacred subjects, but he was most in his element
V1L] THE DRAMATISTS. 89
perhaps in comedy. Here he had full scope for his powers
of abuse. Though some critics have detected and praised a
certain liveliness in the action before unknown, it is clear
that this author concentrated the best part of his attention on
the dialogue, in which it would be idle to contest his success.
It is distinguished by a careless ease, and smart, though
shameless, epigram. The Donna Costante and Amante
Furioso of Borghini, although they cannot be rated as very
excellent compositions, deserve mention on account of their
singularity. In an age when such a thing was undreamt of,
they afford some foretaste of the romantic drama.
All the writers of comedy who have been cited thus far
wrote in classical Italian, but comedy, which by its very
nature is more popular than tragedy, assumed a municipal
form, and specimens were produced in various local dialects.
We may leave out of sight the Florentine, which was employed
for every sort of writing, but especially for comedy, because,
as has been often observed, the difference between this and
literary Italian is scarcely to be perceived. In the rest of
Italy the citizens of Siena were perhaps the first to write
comedies in their native speech, and the works of the
Accademia de' Rozzi held the same place in the estimation of
their contemporaries as the Atellane plays at Rome. The
Rozzi were succeeded by the Intronati, who made a speciality
of comedy, and whose dramas, collected in several volumes,
found their way over the Alps. It is said that Shakespeare's
Twelfth Night is imitated from one of their plays, / Ingan-
nati. In 1536, when Charles V passed through Siena, the
Intronati regaled him with a theatrical exhibition, and a
comedy was performed, which had been written by Arch-
bishop Alessand.ro Piccolomini, and bore as title Amore
Costante. The principal feature in this comedy is that
90 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
four different sorts of speech are in use, a captain speaking
in Castilian, a Neapolitan in his own dialect, a German in
broken Italian, while the common persons talk Sanese.
The effect of this intermixture was naturally to increase
the humour of the piece, but it is not an artifice which
can be often resorted to, and Caro in his Straccioni returned
to the older and better precedent by writing in ordinary
Italian. If dialect is to be used at all, it is desirable in the
interests of art that it should be the same throughout. This
was the rule adopted in most of his comedies by Ruzzante,
who wrote in the Paduan dialect. Lastly, as to the so-called
commedie dell' arte, of which a good deal was improvisation.
They were executed by professional actors for the diversion
of the common people, whos.e stock of sacred representations
was beginning to fail, and at first were wholly impromptu.
The extravagance in which the performers indulged led to
plays being, so to speak, skeletonized. The dialogue, how-
ever, was still left to the inspiration of the moment. To
these farces we may trace the origin of Harlequin, Pantaloon,
and other familiar friends of the pantomime.
The pastoral drama, to which we must next allude, is in a
peculiar way the glory of Italy. Until a few years before
Aminta was written, it is doubtful whether there had ever
existed anything of the sort. There had been abundance of
pastoral poetry, which, so far as Italy was concerned, was
revived in his Arcadia by Sannazzaro, but a pastoral
play was something new in literature, unless indeed a lost
work of Sositheus, which Athenaeus mentions by the name of
Daphnis or Lityerses, be deemed to have answered to this
description. Whatever may be the truth about this, it is
hardly likely that Tasso's precursors owed anything to this
somewhat obscure hint. After all there is nothing so very
VI JJ THE DRAMATISTS. 91
extraordinary in the choice of a pastoral subject for a drama,
especially at a time when all kinds of experiments were being
made in literature ; nor is it on the score of invention so
much as of unique excellence that Aminta awakens our
admiration. Previous to its appearance several like dramas
had been produced at the court of Ferrara. Thus we hear
of a Tirsi by Castiglione, an Egle by Giraldi, a Sacrifizio
by Agostino Beccari, and an Aretusa by Alberto Lollio.
What, however, directly suggested to Tasso the idea of writing
\usAminta, was the representation at which he was present in
1567 of the Sfortunato of Agostino degli Argenti, who com-
posed it for the entertainment of Duke Alfonso II and his
brother the Cardinal.
Tasso's Aminta is of course quite different from his Geru-
salemme, to which it has been by some critics preferred. The
former has all the simplicity and grace of the idylls of Theo-
critus and the eclogues of Virgil, and indeed there are not a
few passages imitated from those authors. Tasso, however,
like Milton, never borrowed without making full reparation
by evolving in the process new and unsuspected beauties.
His shepherds and shepherdesses are imagined to live in the
Golden Age, before men were corrupted and set at variance
by the monstrous notion of honour. These beings are equally
removed from that rusticity which we might have supposed
inseparable from their calling, and the false polish of the
courtier. They live in plenty, and the only thing which dis-
turbs the even tenor of their way is love. The theme of the
pastoral play therefore is love the thrice-told tale of a
distressed lover and an obdurate maiden. The drama was
considered a complete success, and soon began to be copied.
Only one of these imitations, however, has survived //
Pas/or Fido of Guarini.
92 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
Giambattista Guarini (1537-1613) was a frequenter of
the same court of Ferrara where Tasso resided, and they are
said to have been rivals in love. Finding that Tasso's
poetical effusions gave him the advantage with ladies,
Guarini resolved to compete with him on his own ground.
That he should have achieved such success is certainly sur-
prising, as Guarini was a person of very aristocratic senti-
ments, and shrank from the description of poet as though it
derogated from his character as a gentleman. // Pastor
Fido bears some resemblance to Aminta, but in the main
action they are entirely distinct, and of the two the former
has by far the more complicated and ambitious design.
Italy was now dominated by Spain, and the influence of
the conquerors made itself felt even in literature, which
was marked by numerous vices. Thus in // Pastor Fido
the comic element is introduced in such a way as some-
what to impair the value of the piece as a work of art.
Out of regard for this feature in the play Guarini styled it a
tragic ommedia. In the prevailing state of public feeling,
however, its very inconsistencies were pleasing. The better
sense of Italy, whilst acknowledging the merits of //
Pastor Fido its rich poetry, warm feeling, and life-like
pourtrayal of character and conceding to it the second
place, has always ranked it at a considerable interval after
It may not perhaps strictly belong to our province to dis-
cuss the nielodrama, the libretto of which is often a mere
accessory, but Daphne, a pastoral written by Ottavio
Kinuccini, has an interest independent of the music, and
deserves a passing notice. There were many other plays
produced at this time, some of which have fallen into un-
merited oblivion, but it is necessary that we should pass on
VII.] THE DRAMATISTS. 93
to the subject of lyric poetry, to which similar remarks will
The sixteenth century was an age in which every gentle-
man was expected, as a matter of course, to be able to indite
a sonnet. Nay, poetry descended into the street; artisans
felt the breath of Apollo, and forsaking the popular rhymes,
became followers of Petrarch. The entire peninsula swarmed
with Petrarchists and Boccaccists, especially the former, whose
mannerisms and cold conceits were in vain attacked by Muzio
in his Arte Poetica, and by Klccold Franco in // Petrarchista.
While there are no really great names in this army of love-sick
singers, there are several which are of secondary importance,
and which would not be rightly passed over. Thus Cardinal
Bembo (1470-1547) has gained some distinction by his
imitations of Petrarch, although he is very far from attaining
the perfection of his model. The reason lay primarily, no
doubt, in the disparity of their powers, but the motives
which impelled Petrarch to write were real, whereas in the
case of Bembo, a cloyed sensualist, they were imaginary
only. The Cardinal composed also grammatical works, and,
although not even a Tuscan, was regarded by the Florentines
as an authority from whom there was no appeal.
Another poet who deserves to be singled out from the
multitude of rhymesters is Galeazzo di Tarsia (1492-1555),
who was not much esteemed during his lifetime, and only
leapt into fame after his death on the publication of his
sonnets. He was one of the many admirers of Vittoria
Colonna, in whose honour most of his lyrics were written.
They are of a different quality from those of Bembo, but
Galeazzo had not the necessary strength of mind to break
with the fashions of the age. It being considered a positive
merit to rifle Petrarch's Canzoniere of its gems, Galeazzo
94 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
sacrificed at the altar of convention, and is now well-nigh
forgotten. The same cannot be said of his divinity, Vittoria
Colonna (1490-1547), although for the purpose of immor-
talising her name her sex was probably no disservice to her.
Most of her verse is dedicated to her husband, the Marchese
di Pescara. It is distinguished both by warmth and elegance,
but even it is tainted in some measure by stereotyped affected
phraseology. After the death of her husband she withdrew
from society and composed religious poems. One canzonet
which has been usually attributed to Vittoria, though some
have given it to Ariosto, rises high above the level of the
sixteenth century, and is in its way unique.
Vittoria is remembered also as the only woman, so far as
is known, who succeeded in captivating Michelangelo. That
great man was generally too much occupied with the ideal
world to take an interest in sublunary objects, but his habit
of abstraction broke down before the charms of the poetess.
Before he knew her, he said, drawing a metaphor from art,
he was a half-finished statue to which the chisel of Vittoria
gave form. One result of their intimacy was that Michel-
angelo (1475-1564) turned poet, and although he could not
avoid being a Petrarchist, his verse has a stately nobility, an
intellectual grace, denied to the professional rhymesters. Berni.
who felt a great contempt for the class, passed the remark on
them that they said ivords, Michelangelo things.
It must not be supposed that Vittoria Colonna was the
only poetess of the age. On the contrary there was quite a
host of ladies ambitious of the name, of whom we may quote
as examples Veronica Gambara, Tullia d' Aragona, Gaspara
Stampa, Laura Terracina, and Tarquinia Molza. In point
of merit there is perhaps not much to choose between them,
but if any claims special notice it is Gaspara Stampa (1523-
VII.] THE DRAMATISTS. 95
1554). She was very romantic, and her poems are naturally
divided by the three periods to which they relate. The first
belong to the time when she fell in love with a young noble-
man, Collatino di Collalto. He appears to have possessed
every qualification which could be demanded of a lover, being
well-born, rich and virtuous ; and Gaspara is rapturous over
him. Then came dark days of suspicion and suspense,
which form the second period, and finally, when her hero was
wedded to another, the third period of despairing certainty.
Her verse is real poetry, and if she had not been so unlucky
as to be born in that age of formal lyricism, it is possible that
she might have won the name of a second Sappho.
The sonnets of Giovanni del Casa are striking for their
masculine vigour, and were greatly admired by Ugo Foscolo.
Tasso also wrote lyrical verses, of which those that relate
to his unhappy love affair are the most pathetic. In one
sense he may be claimed. as a disciple of Guido Guinicelli,
since he treats of Platonic love, but he is as superior to the
Bolognese in depth of learning as in mastery of poetic form.
Already mention has been made of Berni and the poetry
called after him bernesque. The name which he gave to his
poems was Capitoli, and they were written in triplets. As
may be readily imagined he had a crowd of imitators, most
of whom were only feeble echoes of their master. Now the
most salient feature in bernesque poetry is the ambiguity of
the terms, double entendre. For the success of this artifice
there ought to be an exact correspondence between the
literal and the figurative meaning, but this we often do not
find in the works of the minor exponents of the art, e.g.
Giovanni Mauro. After Berni himself, the chief writers of
frivolous verse were Lasca and Caporali. The former was
here quite in his element, and his madrigalesse (a species of
96 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
composition of his own invention, in which he parodied the
madrigal-writers) are among the quaintest things in literature.
Caporali, for his part, attempted an innovation by choosing
such subjects as lent themselves to satire. His longest work
is a Vita di Mecenate, in which the jest turns on a modernisa-
tion, as it were, of the worthy patron of Horace. Another
poem of Caporali, entitled Viaggio al Parnaso, is said to have
supplied Cervantes with the hint for his better known work of
the same name. As a general criticism of bernesque poetry
it may be observed that it is often very exquisite as regards
its form, but its aim is entirely nugatory, wherefore its pro-
fessors cannot be placed high in the hierarchy of poets.
About this time satire of a more serious kind, imitated
from Horace and Juvenal, began to be cultivated. The first
specimens of the kind were those of Vinciguerra (1480).
They are stated to have been so popular that at Venice
there was not a person who did not know them by heart.
This is difficult to credit, as for us Vinciguerra's satires
possess few literary attractions, and are, in fact, little
more than rambling discourses of miscellaneous scolding.
Ariosto also attempted this style. The satires of that
great poet are quite worthy of his fame. Written in a
graceful and easy vein, they are lit up every now and then
by unlooked-for sallies, full of wit, and are as pungent as
satire need ever be. Next to Ariosto, among the satirists
of the age, is Ercole Bentivoglio (1506-1572), but his
affectation is intolerable. He served during the siege of
Florence as a mercenary of Clement VII, and in anything
but the spirit of a soldier repines at the vinegar and mouldy
brown bread which are his daily fare. Son of one of the
many petty despots who were the plague and disgrace of
Italy, he was naturally obtuse to the character of the scene
VII.] THE DRAMATISTS. 97
which was enacting before his eyes the destruction of the
last bulwark of liberty in fair Florence. Other satirists were
Luigi Alamanni, Pietro K"elli, Girolamo Fenaruolo, and
Lastly as to didactic poetry, of which the age affords some
examples. Rucellai wrote an admirable poem about bees,
suggested doubtless by a famous passage in the Georgics.
He was followed by Luigi Alamanni with his Coltivazione,
an exhaustive treatise on agriculture, and a non-Florentine
writer Bernardino Baldi, whose encyclopaedic mind fur-
nished forth the subject-matter of a poem entitled Nautica.
All these works are in blank verse, and on the whole
extremely tiresome. Better in every way are two poems
of Tansillo, his Podere and Balia, which are written in terza
rima, and have, if no other, these merits they are not long
and they are readable.
THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS.
THE seventeenth century as an era is famous for the pro-
gress of natural science, to which Italy contributed her full
share. Galileo, Renieri, Cassini, Torricelli, Valisnieri, Viviani,
Bellini, Redi, and a host of others, are still remembered as
participating in this great movement, but to the historian of
Italian letters the interest which these names excite is inci-
dental only. In pure literature the age was one of decadence
and decline ; and the reason is obvious. The peninsula
groaned under the oppressions of a number of paltry tyrants,
who could not afford to tolerate any works with a bearing on
morals or politics. On the other hand it could do them no
harm, rather much good, to encourage acute and industrious
minds to search into the mysteries of nature. They would
not only be earning an honourable name for themselves as
patrons of learning, but would be keeping pragmatical persons
out of mischief. Whatever their motives may have been, the
sons and successors of Cosimo de' Medici were devoted to
this study, and attended in person the discussions of the
Accademia del Cimento, which was an institution especially
dedicated to physical science.
Literature was vitiated by two principal faults far-fetched
analogy and an excessive love of antithesis. As instances of
the former may be quoted such circumlocutions as ardenti
Ch. VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS. 99
zecchini della banca del cielo (' glowing zecchins of the bank
of the sky '), buchi lucenti del celeste cribro ( ( shining holes of
the heavenly sieve '), and lummose agnelle ( f bright lambkins ')
for the stars. It would be easy to multiply such expressions
which in England we should term euphuisms, and which,
with judicious editing, might furnish materials for an agree-
able jest-book. These faults do not cling quite exclusively
to the seventeenth century. For similar abuses Tasso had
already rebuked a grandson of Ariosto, but then offences of
the sort were rare. The extravagance reached its culminat-
ing point in the writings of Giambattista Marini (1569-
1625) and his followers. Marini was extremely popular, and
to judge from his earliest attempts, deliberately forsook truer
perceptions of art for a set of corrupt maxims as more in
harmony with the tendencies of the age. His chief work is
an epic, A done, for which he was munificently rewarded by
the King of France with a pension of a thousand fans and the
title of cavaliere. There is not much in Adone that we can
properly call new, and his choice of this subject seems to
have been dictated by a two-fold consideration the oppor-
tunity it afforded him for licence and his rare talent for
description. One feature in the poem which is especially
disfiguring to it is the troop of allegorical and abstract per-
sonages who help to fill up the canvas. We have noted
some specimens of impossible metaphors ; Marini shall
supply us with an example of strained antithesis. He speaks
of Love :
RLince privo di lume, Argo bendato,
Vecchio lattante e pargoletto antico,
Ignorante erudito, ignudo armato, etc.
^ ' Lynx reft of light, a blindfold Argus, stickling old man and aged
little boy, ignorant yet learned, naked yet armed/)
100 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
This is monstrous enough, but Marini was completely
eclipsed by his two followers Girolamo Preti (fi626) and
Claudio Achillini (1574-1640), who ran riot in such con-
ceits, so that the metaphors of the seventeenth century have
passed into a proverb. But the writers of that age were not
all of them Marinists. There were two other classes, both
of which were agreed in reprobating the prevailing vices,
but of which the one sought to cure, while the other was
content to mock at them. The chief representative of the
former is Gabriello Chiabrera (1552-1637). He was a man
of great learning, and particularly in love with Greek poetry,
the graces whereof he endeavoured to transplant into Italian.
He likens the enterprise to that of Columbus in search of
a new world, but such phrases are much too grandiloquent
for the attempt. All that Chiabrera really did was to dethrone
Petrarch, who had been the idol of the poetasters of the
sixteenth century, and to set up Pindar and Anacreon instead.
The book of Nature, with its endless suggestions, remained
to him sealed. Not only did Chiabrera lay violent hands on
the words and phrases of his masters, but he also appropriated
their themes, substituting however for the contests of Olympia
the games of football at Florence. In formulating these
odes Chiabrera ventured on an innovation by the use of
compound terms, e. g. nubicalpestatore. Such combinations
are agreeable to the genius of the northern languages of
Europe, as they were to the ancient Greek, from which of
course Chiabrera copied them, but Latin and its derivatives
somehow do not take kindly to them. Chiabrera is more
happy when he celebrates the triumphs of Italian galleys
over the Turks and corsairs who swarmed in the Mediter-
ranean. The subject was naturally one to kindle his patriotic
ardour, and in handling it he displays considerable skill am
VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADTANS. TOI
some amount of real passion. Even here, however, he does
not let go the leading-strings of Pindar.
Chiabrera was greatly admired in his own day, and was
regarded as a touch-stone of good sense. It was said by
Cardinal Pallavicini that, ' in order to find out whether a man
had good talents, it was needful to see if Chiabrera pleased
him/ Under these circumstances he was certain to have
many disciples, some of whom did him small credit. Among
the more famous may be mentioned Guidi, Testi, Ciampoli,
Menzini and Filicaja.
In the case both of Ciampoli and Guidi their character
seems to have taken a ply from their writings. Ciampoli
was so vain that he did not return people's salutes, while
Guidi, with lofty selfA|ertion, challenged a comparison with
Pindar. ' Non e ca^Mglt Dei Pindaro solo ' are his words.
Of the two Guidi (1610-1712) is certainly the more signi-
ficant. Misinterpreting a phrase of Horace in which he
spoke of the verses of the Theban poet as freed from all law,
Guidi spoilt the framework of the Italian canzonet and wrote
with studied carelessness. In this he had, fortunately, no
imitators. As a writer Guidi belongs partly to the school of
Marini, partly to the Arcadians. He collaborated with
Queen Christina of Sweden, who suggested to him the
drama Endimione and wrote some verses for it. Towards
the end of his life he purposed translating the Psalms, but
finding, as he said, the genius of Hebrew opposed to that of
Italian poetry, he abandoned the experiment. He did, how-
ever, work out a metrical version of six Latin homilies by
Testi's (1593-1646) style is more refined and chaste than
that of Guidi, and much of his poetry is undeniably beautiful
notably the allegorical Ruscelletto Orgoglioso, the source of
102 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
all his woe. His verse, however, lacks energy. The best in
regard to purity and propriety of language is Menzini (1646-
1704), who, conscious of his limitations, wrote by preference
on rural subjects. Some of his sonnets retain their popu-
larity to this day.- It still remains to allude to one of Chia-
brera's scholars Filicaja (163 2-1 707), who, in his moments
of inspiration, far surpassed his contemporaries. None of
these writers, it seems, could escape the besetting sin, the
odd metaphors and reckless exaggeration, of the time, but
in his poems relating to the siege of Vienna by the Turks
Filicaja may be said to have risen to the height of the
argument. The occasion was one which seemed laden with
consequences to the Christian faith, and Filicaja, a Florentine
gentleman, was unfeignedly and profojLndly religious. The
principal blemish in his verse is iffi? rhetorical turn, but
in reading him everyone must feel that Filicaja is a real
It is evident that the artifices of the Marinists were such
as lent themselves very readily to satire, and, as has been
already intimated, a school of satirists arose. They must be
judged the best of them, at least to have obtained a con-
siderable measure of success, for the writings of Menzini,
Salvatore Rosa, and Adimari, even now, have not ceased
to be read. The works of Monsignore Sergardi, who wrote
under the name of Settano, made a great stir, but there was
too much of personal invective in them, the chief object of
attack being Gravina, Sergardi, therefore, can hardly be
accepted as a candidate for the primacy which, according to
the taste of the critic, ought to be assigned either to Bene-
detto Menzini or Salvatore Rosa (1615-1 676). The former
has the surer touch, writes better verses, and shows himself
in all the details of style more of an adept in the art. Rosa,
VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS. 103
on the other hand, has a fund of rude vigour, but seems,
notwithstanding his skill in painting, to have had little feeling
for the niceties of language. He is an amateur in satire.
This writer was extremely ostentatious of his learning, and
his satires may be regarded, from one point of view, as a
medley of Greek and Latin proper names. Still more re-
grettable is his cruel and shameless attack on the great
Finally must be mentioned Francesco Redi (1629-1697),
who gained distinction both in the field of science and of
letters. His lyrical poems are now forgotten or remembered
only by philologers for their pure diction. Redi's dithyramb,
however Baccho in Toscana has experienced a better fate.
It is looked upon not only as a perfect example of its sort,
but, literally, as unrivalled. The history of the dithyramb
previously may be briefly stated as follows. Italy had pos-
sessed specimens of the kind ever since the days of Poliziano.
When, later on, Chiabrera made it his mission to introduce
the various forms of Greek poetry, he naturally paid attention
to the dithyramb. He would appear, however, to have been
unprovided with models, and thus to have hazarded a guess
at the nature of such compositions. His conjecture was false,
but Redi followed in his footsteps and celebrated the wines
of Tuscany in his Baccho^ through the spokesmanship of the
god himself. The poem, according to the author's intention,
mimics the phases of a drunken fit, and becomes more wild
as it proceeds. To produce this effect a variety of metres
are employed, and the most plausible terms; but it is im-
possible to disguise the fact that Baccho in Toscana is the
lucubration of a scholar, not a work inspired by a fami-
liarity like that of the vine-dresser or vintner, or even of the
104 ITALIAN LIT&RA TURE. [Ch.
The drama was even in a worse way than lyric poetry.
True comedy had succumbed to the Commedia del? arte> and
the only works of a dramatic nature which are still re-
membered are La Tancia and La Fiera of Michelangelo
Buonarroti the younger. These writings are of a character
entirely distinct. La Fiera was composed without any re-
ference to the theatre, and consists of five Giornate. Each of
these Giornate again is divided into five long acts. There
are likewise five prologues or interludes, in which allegorical
personages such as Art, Merchandise, Commerce, Enjoy-
ment and Profit appear ; while in the main body of the work
are introduced people of every age, sex, and condition, an
aggregate of humanity for which there is only one description
menagerie. La Tancia on the other hand is copied from
the rustic plays of the fourteenth century, and is interesting.
Buonarroti, though he had no real dramatic talent, paints in
lively colours the habits of Florentine country-folk, whom he^
makes speak in their native brogue.
As a supposed prototype of Paradise Lost it is permissible
to allude to the Adamo of Andreini a whimsical composition,
but not quite devoid of merit.
The greatest name in Italian literature during the seven-
teenth century is unquestionably that of Tassoni (1565-1635).
His masterpiece, La Secchia Rapita, is a poem of European
reputation. In order to grasp its significance, it must be
borne in mind that the age was fruitful in epic poems,
although none is of sufficient dignity or importance to merit
distinct mention in these pages. Gerusalemme Liberata, like
Ariosto's Orlando, provoked feelings of emulation in the
breasts of unnumbered minor poets, who vainly strove to
achieve a similar renown. Not that they were all alike or
all bad. Some of them possessed great talent, and even
VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS. 105
genius, but it is a common observation that epic poems can-
not be produced at will. They are the work not only of
men, but of times and conditions. Ariosto and Tasso had
a clientele in the people, who were superstitious by inheritance,
and in whose store of marvels they had found unlimited
materials. Critics like Cardinal d'Este might disdain their
compositions, but such cavils were drowned in the enthu-
siastic applause of the multitude. The succeeding age
was almost wholly critical and analytical, and even a little
cynical. It is evidence of the altered tone that the Aeneid
of Virgil, who during the middle ages had been reverenced
as a saint and feared as a magician, was travestied with
impunity by Lalli.
As for Tassoni, he was a man with an instinctive love of
freedom, a noble contempt for everything servile and cringing
no less in literature than in politics. Unluckily neither his
own circumstances nor those of the time favoured his
aspirations. He came of an ancient family, but was forced
by poverty to dance attendance on Cardinal Ascanio Colonna,
while Italy, which he would gladly have seen strong and
united, gasped at the feet of Spain. When the Duke of
Savoy, with fine courage, attacked the colossal monarchy,
Tassoni wrpte some spirited Filippiche, exposing the weak-
ness of their common foe to the princes of Italy and urging
them to support Carlo Emanuele. The duke was at first
duly grateful, but by-and-by there came a suspension of
arms, and in the end Tassoni was sacrificed to political
necessities, none of the ample promises which had been
made to him being redeemed.
In literature Tassoni manifested his independence by
objecting to the tyranny of the Dellacruscan Vocabulary,
whereby the use of any terms not consecrated by the usage
106 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
of a few writers was forbidden. This is strikingly evident in
his book, Pensieriy which, for the rest, his admirers have
strong reason to regret. If there is some gold in it, there is
much alloy. Often, strangely juxtaposed with a profound
truth, is to be found some absurd paradox, and, generally, it
is a standing proof of the inequality of genius, the more im-
pressive because Tassoni frequently showed himself an acute
critic. A poetical commonplace at this time was the discovery
of the New World. This subject had been already, treated
by Stigliani, Villafranchi, and others, and when a friend
submitted to him several cantos of an epic on the well-worn
theme, Tassoni in words of the sagest counsel dissuaded him
from the attempt. He himself at one period projected a
poem Oceana on the same topic, and advanced a theory that
a composition of this nature, if it was to succeed, should be
modelled on the Odyssey, not, as was ordinarily the case, on
the Aeneid or Gerusalemme Liber ata. Tassoni completed one
canto, but here his heart failed him or, as is more likely, he
became sensible that his gifts would be better employed in
another direction. By a curious coincidence, at the very
time when Cervantes was writing Don Quixote, Tassoni set
to work on a satirico-epic poem, to which he gave the name
La Secchia Rapita, and which, it may be remarked, was
printed several years before Marini's Adone.
Consistently with his design Tassoni rigidly adhered to
the forms of the heroic epic, producing by this means a
more laughable result. From a historical point of view La
Secchia Rapita connects with an earlier period of Italian
annals, when two states, on the least provocation, rushed into
exacerbated war. It would have been more to the purpose
perhaps, if, instead of lashing the redundant energy of the
old republicans, Tassoni had attacked the opposite vice as
VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS. 107
exemplified in his contemporaries. * But this does not by any
means exhaust his quiver. One of the worst features in the
literature of the day was the rank abuse of pagan mythology,
which had, so to speak, been galvanized into life. It sym-
bolized nothing, and its revival was due to the prostitution
of poetry in the petty Italian courts. By assailing this foolish
conventionality Tassoni antedated, in some sense, the efforts
put forth two centuries later by the romanticists for a more
natural style of writing.
From the moment of its publication La Secchia Rapita
was greatly admired, and it was translated into several foreign
languages, but it did not effect the desired reform. The
truth is it was not taken seriously. It was regarded as a light
amusing composition, not as a satire. The same task was
attempted, with rather more austerity, by Bracciolini in his
Scherno del Dei. His work is well written, but might not
perhaps have been remembered, had not a contest arisen
between the two authors respecting the priority of their
works. La Secchia Rapita is deformed by none of the
vices of the period. The style is bold and the versifica-
tion easy. It might have been improved by the insertion
of a few more episodes. As it is, the description of so many
battles is apt at last to grow tedious. In spite of that the
poem is not of the sort which, once read, can be indifferently
laid aside. The flavour it leaves behind constantly invites to
a fresh perusal. Of the many imitations of Tassoni the only
epic worthy of mention is the Malmantile of Lorenzo Lippi
(16061664), written in the gayest of moods.
The prose of the seventeenth century is much on a par
with its poetry. The orators, especially the preachers, in-
dulged in the wildest excesses of rhetoric. If any is to
be excepted it must be Segneri, who has many admirable
1 08 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
qualities, but nothing to compare with the consummate art
of Demosthenes or the fervid eloquence of Chatham. The
academic readings are inferior even to those of the sixteenth
century, which, though not brilliant, had at least the merit of
a pure style. Historical literature on the other hand is illus-
trated by some famous names, the most notable being those
of Arrigo Caterino Davila, Guido Bentivoglio, Fra Paolo
Sarpi, and Cardinal Pallavicini. Davila (1576-1631) de-
scribed the civil wars of France, whilst Bentivoglio (1579
1603) dealt with those of Flanders. Both works are distin-
guished by dignity of manner and great knowledge of affairs.
They excited, however, less interest than the other pair of
histories devoted to the Council of Trent. That by Sarpi
(1552-1623) is the better known as it is certainly the more
deserving. The writer shows marked ability in arranging his
facts, but even more striking is Sarpi's independence of thought,
which he expressed at the risk of torture and assassination.
Sarpi was a Venetian, and it is probable that his dislike of
Rome was intensified and inflamed by the interposition of
Paul V in the affairs of his native city, which in 1606 was
laid under an interdict. The History of the Council of Trent,
however, was not the product of malevolence, but a dream of
Sarpi's youth, and its consummation, late in his career, gave
its author a place in the first rank of the world's historians.
It was published in 1619 at London, and announced as the
work of Pietro Soave Polano, a sort of anagram formed on
the writer's actual name Paolo Sarpi.
The weak point in the book is the style, which lacks
finish. In this the author must certainly yield the palm to
Pallavicini (1607-1667). On the other hand the Cardinal
is by no means Sarpi's equal in his mode of discussing the
subject. Sarpi is an impartial historian, but Pallavicini writes
VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS. 109
as an apologist an attitude which diminishes our confidence
in his statements. In this department two other names may
be mentioned, Daniello Bartoli and Giambattista Doni, but
their works are not specially significant.
The literary vices of the seventeenth century were so
pronounced that they could not remain hid even from those
who were most affected by them. They openly challenged
reform. The consequence was that a reaction set in, and
writers lapsed into the very opposite errors. Instead of
being a mania, a perpetual convulsion, literature became
languid and tame. This result was mainly brought about
by a single academy. During the last ten years of the
century it was the custom of various scholars living at Rome
to repair to one of the pleasant hills in the neighbourhood
and there to read sonnets, canzonets, elegies, epigrams, etc.,
their own compositions, for their own or their mutual de-
lectation. One day, in the exultation of his heart, a member
of the brotherhood exclaimed Ecco per not risorta Arcadia
(' See for us Arcadia risen again ') words which led to the
formation of an academy bearing the name ' Arcadia.' The
mission which it undertook was the propagation of poetical
orthodoxy, and including its branches, it soon numbered one
thousand three hundred adherents. Enrolled in the list were
all sorts and conditions of literary men Guidi and Ciampoli,
Pindarists, as well as Crescimbeni and Leonio, who were
disciples of Theocritus.
Probably it was this circumstance which caused the Ar-
cadians to adopt a kind of via media in the reforms prescribed
by them. They chose as a model the verse of Angiolo di
Costanzo, already mentioned as among the writers of the
sixteenth century. Filicaja, in one of his sonnets, predicts
something like an eternal duration for the Arcadia, but the
1 1 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch .
institution lacked an essential element of success. The
members, generally speaking, were by no means men of
genius, and to-day it is difficult to recall as many as three
or four names representing merely respectable talent. One
of the most eminent of the set is Francesco Lemene (1634-
1704), who graduated in the school of Marini and Achillini,
but he burned to achieve something original, and when the
new academy proclaimed war on bad taste, became a prolific
writer of Arcadian verse. Lemene, however, filled with scorn
at the mean and pitiful style of his fellow-shepherds, desired
for himself the reputation of a man of spirit. This attempt
to combine antagonistic qualities renders his poetry most
affected. Hardly any writings have so false a ring. He
considered himself a master of frivolous verse, and wrote in
his old age a volume of sacred compositions, in which he
attempted to be sublime, but fell far short of his intention.
A writer of much greater merit is Giambattista Zappi
(1667-1719). Zappi was a precocious genius. Before he
was thirteen years old he had taken his degree both in philo-
sophy and jurisprudence. He chose the law as his profes-
sion, and at Rome, where he resided, held several public
offices. Of all the ' shepherds ' Zappi is the least open to
censure. His poems are very harmonious, and, being of a
really poetic nature, he might in better times have made for
himself a great name. He wrote in both styles, the simple
and sublime, and specimens of his verse still find a place
in every Italian anthology.
We reach the next stage in the development of Arcadian
poetry in a kind of writing named by its authors < fantastic/
The term must not be understood in the modern sense, but,
suitably to its derivation, as synonymous with ' figurative ' or
' ornate/ The leader in this new departure was Carlo In-
VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS. Ill
nocenzo Frugoni (1692-1768), who was blest with a copious
imagination, but lacked seriousness. He wrote an immense
number of poems of every sort, in every conceivable style
and metre, and for our purpose may be deemed the last of
Between the death of Zappi and that of Frugoni a period
elapsed of nearly forty years, during which thousands of
versifiers won a temporary fame. Very few names, however,
have descended to our times none glorious. Before litera-
ture could arise from the mire in which it was sunk, the action
of a keen unsparing criticism was necessary. Already this
had been begun by Tassoni, who at eighteen wrote a tragedy
to which he appended a critique instancing with remarkable
frankness both its merits and defects. Tassoni was the
author also of a treatise on Petrarch's verse, which is signal-
ized by his characteristic freedom. The Considerations, as
he called them, are couched in a sufficiently lively style, and
often display much judgment. Elsewhere, however, he is the
victim of his own caprice, which leads him into unfairness
and exaggeration. Allowing for this, Tassoni's ideas are vastly
superior to those of his age. Among his successors four
attained to great eminence, Gianvincenzo Gravina, Apostolo
Zeno, Ludovico Antonio Muratori, and Scipione Maffei.
Gravina (1664-1718), a man of immense erudition, who
treated learnedly of Roman Law, sought to win for himself
a place also in pure literature. He composed several dramas
in the manner of the ancients, and such was his unconscion-
able opinion of himself that he pretended to an equality with
Sophocles. As an original writer he must be pronounced
an unqualified failure, but his ill-success is redeemed in some
measure by the excellence of his criticism. His discourse
on Guidi's Endimione^ which was his first attempt of the
112 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
kind, though it contains many sound remarks, suffers from its
egregious style in which he seeks to outvie Guidi himself, the
most ambitious of the Pindarists. Gravina's other work, Delia
Ragione Poetica, on the contrary, is esteemed the best treatise
on aesthetics ever produced in Italy. Some of its propo-
sitions may no longer be deemed tenable, but, taken as a
whole, it is a noble study, and well adapted to the purpose
of regenerating literature.
Zeno (1669-1750) is in this connexion chiefly famous for
the part which he took in publishing the Giornale de Lette-
rati, the best Italian periodical of the last century. He was
by all accounts a wonderful man. Without a touch of literary
jealousy, he did all in his power to assist merit wherever
it might be found, and his letters testify as much to his
kindness of heart as to his learning and critical acumen.
Zeno is remembered also for his notes on the Eloquenza
Italiana of Fontanini. The latter was an insane fanatic who,
to swell the volume of the Index Expurgatorius, took the short
way of denouncing the works of all writers, whether living or
dead, as heretical. Among his other projects Zeno intended
writing an exhaustive account of Italian historians, but having
heard that Muratori (16721750) was engaged on a similar
work, generously made over to him the whole of his materials.
The work which Muratori undertook was one to tax the
energies of a whole phalanx of scholars. A thorough inven-
tory had been made of the Italian libraries, and a vast number
of forgotten books had been exhumed. These had been
again published, and the time was now come for a new
critical history of the entire literature. Considering the
Herculean nature of the task, it is with no small astonish-
ment that we read that Muratori's magnum opus, his Annali
d'ltalta, occupied him only eighteen months in writing.
VIII.] THE MARINISTS AND ARCADIANS. 113
This despatch was purchased at no cost of accuracy, nor
was Muratori dissuaded by his saintliness of character and
catholic orthodoxy from pourtraying in their true colours
the injuries which Italy had sustained through the temporal
power of the Popes. It would be demanding, perhaps, too
much of human nature to expect from Muratori, in addition
to these virtues, the glory of a perfect style, which he has
not, but in his grasp of general principles he is in no way
inferior either to Tassoni or Zeno. Take for instance his
essays Buono Gusto and Perfetta Poesia, which are both full
Scipione Maffei (1675-1755), though not equal to Mura-
tori as a philosopher, may vie with him in depth of learning
and longanimity of research. Maffei was no mere critic or
compiler. He felt a warm interest in the drama, which he
desired to see reformed on the model of the French theatre,
then regarded as the most effective in Europe. He made a
collection of all the most valuable Italian dramatic works,
and engaged in a controversy with Frate Concina on the
morality of the theatre. This discussion drew attention to
a play which Maffei had written, entitled Merope. It was
translated into various foreign languages and was every-
where received with the loudest plaudits. It was at this
time that Francesco Bianchini broke new ground, so far
as Italy was concerned, by writing a Storia Universale,
which he found too immense to complete, and a still more
notable undertaking Giambattista Vico (1668- 174 4),
in his Scienza Nuova, composed the first philosophy of his-
tory since Aristotle. Vice's influence on European thought
is clearly marked, in Comte and Michelet, for instance. He
anticipated Wolf in his treatment of the Homeric problem,
and Niebuhr in his attitude towards early Roman history.
THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION.
WHILST Arcadian poetry was at the height of its popu-
larity there appeared at Rome a youthful prodigy in the
person of Pietro Trapassi (1698-1782), who delighted the
literary circles by his easy and graceful improvisation.
Gravina, happening to hear him and struck by his genius,
adopted him. In allusion to this circumstance Trapassi
altered his name to Metastasio, from a Greek word signifying
* removal/ This at least is the general account ; but it seems
not unlikely, on a comparison of the two names, that the one
is a translation of the other, just as Melanchthon is of Schwar-
zerd. Gravina, fully appreciating the boy's capacities and
wishing him to make a name in literature, induced him to
abstain from improvising and devote himself to the classics ;
and, at his death, left him a considerable fortune. Metastasio,
however, quickly spent it all and was reduced to the utmost
straits. After a time, by a stroke of good luck, he was com-
missioned to write a musical drama. This, it was understood,
was to be exhibited as a birthday honour for the consort of
the Emperor Charles VI. Stimulated by these motives Meta-
stasio composed his Orti Esperidi, which immediately gave
him a place in the* front rank of Italian authors. Marianna
Bulgarelli, a famous prima donna, had taken the part of Venus
Ch.TX.] THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION. 115
in the piece, and was impressed with the notion that the
words which she sang were real poetry noble, passionate,
and melodious. She accordingly applied for an introduction
to the writer. Metastasio became a frequent visitor at her
house and there met a celebrated musician, Porpora, who
offered to teach him his own art. Metastasio proved an apt
pupil, and, having obtained an insight into the principles of
music as well as those of verse, was able to turn his know-
ledge to account in melodramatic composition. He effected,
indeed, a perfect equipoise between the two arts, whereas
previously the melodrama had been almost entirely musical
and spectacular, the verse merely serving as a frame.
Tragedy being at a low ebb and comedy debased, through-
out the seventeenth century the musical drama was constantly
growing in attractiveness ; but although there were produced
countless melodramatic works from the time of Rinuccini to
that of Metastasio it does not appear that the latter was much
a debtor to any of them. A reservation must be made, how-
ever, in favour of one author Apostolo Zeno, already alluded
to as one of the most celebrated critics of the eighteenth
century. He had also some reputation as a poet, and was
retained in that capacity for the theatres of his Imperial
Majesty. Zeno, with his ideas, could not comply with the
prevailing taste, and he made a strenuous effort to reconcile
the melodrama with reason, to describe real passions, to
write poetry. Although his dramas mark a great advance
on those of his predecessors, still they cannot be termed in
any sense masterpieces. To Metastasio, however, who suc-
ceeded Zeno in his office as Court-poet, they served as a
signpost pointing out in what direction excellence might be
As a young man Metastasio wrote a tragedy entitled
Il6 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
Giustino, of which the subject was taken from Trissino's Italia
Liberata. There is in this play hardly anything suggestive
of the writer's destined triumphs, the metre being the languid
hendecasyllabics of Trissino's poem ; while, to add to its
faults, it is touched with the frigidity and formalism of Gra-
vina's tragedies. One thing, however, may be noted in it
it ends happily. It is said that Zeno, the first to adopt this
artifice, did so at the request of Charles VI, who wished the
audience to leave in a good humour. But Metastasio, before
seeing the principle reduced to practice in Zeno's works, had
heard something to a similar effect from Gravina, who ob-
served in the case of Aeschylus that, instead of bringing the
supposed horrors visibly before the spectators, he intention-
ally caused them to be reported.
In order to judge Metastasio fairly it must be remembered
that he laboured under severe limitations. He had to con-
sider not only the requirements of the drama proper, but
those of music. So many female voices must be provided,
for, such-and-such a scene must end with a duet, etc., etc.
Writing under these conditions it is almost impossible that
Metastasio should have done much better. He succeeded
in producing plays which might be exhibited without music
works of art. In one sense there is too much art in them,
Metastasio being more in love with the beautiful in nature
than the true. The result is a certain dull uniformity in the
personages, their modes of thinking and acting ; nor in other
ways can Metastasio evade the charge of being mannered.
He is accused of possessing but a limited vocabulary and,
although no language is so rich in harmonies as Italian, of
choosing only one key and cleaving to it. There is some
foundation for these charges; but those who make them ap-
pear to forget the peculiar character of the melodrama its
IX.] THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION. TIJ
association with music, which was bound to have a modifying
influence both on the rhythms and the diction.
The only other writer of first-rate importance during this
period is Goldoni. Before anything can be said of him,
however, it will be necessary to take up the subject of comic
literature at the point where it was dropped, and describe
the phases it passed through, until finally it came into Gol-
doni's hands. The reader will remember what was said in a
previous chapter as to the slavish following of things Spanish.
In the -te&W&iteenth century that country gave birth to a famous
writer, Lope de Vega, who, adhering to the popular type of
the drama, the mystery, produced a very large number of plays
composed in that style. As we have already shown, sacred
representations had once been the fashion in Italy, but. were
driven out more than a century before by the operation of
the critical spirit. Lope's works therefore had all the charm
of novelty for the Italians, who eagerly imitated their pecu-
liarities, among which were included quaint conceits, gro-
tesque characters, false situations and affected passion.
The most notable representatives of this school were
Jacopo Cicognini and his son Andrea Giacinto, who
flourished during the first half of the seventeenth century.
The former in his early manhood had been guided by the
better traditions of the native drama ; it was only in his old
age that he commenced to ape the mannerisms of Lope de
Vega. The younger Cicognini essayed the same thing, and
his attempts were more fortunate. With a diction less pure
than Jacopo's he succeeded, to a much greater extent, in
catching the spirit of his master was bold, animated, em-
phatic. Indeed, it is evident, and cannot be denied, that,
amidst the confusion inflicted on the world of letters by the
social and political changes of the seventeenth century,
1 1 8 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
comedy in one particular was improved. Amorous intrigues
were no longer the only stuff treated of by the comic writer.
Moreover Cicognini is most prolific in accidents, and mani-
pulates them with such address as to keep the reader in
suspense to the close of the play.
Meanwhile a new school arose, which sought to vie with
the French dramaturges. Moliere had many followers, of
whom Girolanio Gigli deserves particular mention. Gigli
was the author of a play, Don Pirlone, based on Tartuffe,
but written with so much ability that the imitation was
effectually concealed, and the piece was regarded, fairly, as
original. Gigli, however, though a keen, pungent writer,
produced but few works, and therefore did not effect that
alteration in the taste of his countrymen which might other-
wise have been expected from him.
Far more abundant are the plays of Fagiuoli, a Florentine
(1660-1742), and Pietro Chiari (d. 1785), a Modenese, both
dramatists par metier. Neither of them possessed a spark of
genius. Fagiuoli, like his French models, affected a classical
regularity in the form of his dramas, but in disposing his in-
cidents betrays great feebleness, and any attempt at dramatic
intrigue lands him in evident difficulty. His diction is gener-
ally more graceful and pure than that of the Cicognini school,
but he falls into one mistake. When his vulgar characters
talk in the Florentine dialect he makes them distort words
far more than the common people actually used to do. His
object, of course, was to raise a laugh ; but he sacrificed truth,
and now, at any rate, his provincialisms are wearisome.
Chiari, besides certain mad and impossible romances, whose
success rather turned his head, wrote seven volumes of
comedies in verse. He was sufficiently daring in his experi-
ments, but the result was not happy. Neither Fagiuoli nor
IX.] THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION. 119
Chiari could depict the habits of the age, and their works
now suffer deserved neglect.
Such was the condition of the Italian stage when Carlo
Goldoni (1707-1793) appeared to reform it. From his ear-
liest years, which were passed at Venice, he was familiar with
theatrical exhibitions. His grandfather, who was in good
circumstances, used to regale his guests with dramatic repre-
sentations, and his father kept a puppet-show in the house
for Goldoni's sole delectation. The elder Goldoni, having
squandered his patrimony, attempted to mend matters by
practising as a physician at Rome, while the son was bred
to the law. He won considerable success in his profession,
but the dramatic instinct, fostered through two generations,
proved too strong to be held in. After several essays in
tragedy, tragi-comedy and the. melodrama, whereby he
tested his powers, Goldoni seriously took up the task of re-
storing Italian comedy and placing it on a level with that of
France. His labour was not in vain. Of this we have gra-
tuitous testimony in a letter of Voltaire, who described him
as having rescued Italy from the hands of the harlequins.
Goldoni's services to Italian literature can, indeed, scarcely
be overestimated. He composed about a hundred and fifty
comedies, in which he dealt with every phase of domestic
life, sketched every passion, and showed in other ways a
thorough comprehension of his art. His characterisations
are true to life, his language natural, and his treatment
generally is marked by none of that extravagance which
had disfigured the commedia dell' arte. He restored comedy
to the purity of form which it possessed before the imitators
of Lope de Vega miscellanized it by an admixture of foreign
Goldoni's achievements won for him great respect, even
1 20 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch .
reverence, on the part of the Italian nation ; but in revenge
they excited the bitterest resentment in two classes of persons
lovers of the seventeenth century drama, who could hardly
be expected to give up their idol without a struggle, and a
coterie of learned men, who, whilst approving his programme,
were instigated by various motives chiefly jealousy to
thwart and disparage him. Count Carlo Gozzi ( 1720-1 806)
to be carefully distinguished from his brother Count Gaspare,
a different man in all respects rendered himself especially
conspicuous by his enmity to Goldoni, and, casting about
for some method of attack, became the champion of the
commedia d^l' arte. In conjunction with Sacchi, a famous
comedian of the day, he produced a play which he entitled
Z' Amore delle Tre Melarance, a farrago of fantastic and super-
natural personages, incantations, wonderful adventures, and
everything likely to appeal to the hearts of the populace.
This, being acted at the carnival in Venice, obtained a com-
plete success, and its author was flattered by Baretti as the
most original genius Italy had ever known and comparable
only to Shakespeare. Elated at this triumph, Gozzi proceeded
to publish several volumes of what he called Fiabe, and
wrote a discourse in which he openly vilified Chiari and
Goldoni. The efforts he makes to exalt impromptu at the
expense of written comedy are extremely clumsy and excite
the question whether he properly understood either the one
or the other. His theories, if such loose talk can be dignified
by the name, are dictated solely by antagonism to Goldoni,
and in his dramas all that he did was to exaggerate the bad
features already introduced by the Cicognini.
Italians agree in assigning to Goldoni the first place among
their comic writers ; but, needless to say, he is not faultless.
His works were injured by the haste with which they were
IX.] THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION. 121
produced. In one year alone he composed no less than
sixteen comedies. He was thus prevented from giving to
his dramas those final touches they want in order to be
perfect. As it is, they are marred by redundancy, by that
loquacity which is, as it were, the congenital vice of comic
writers. Another defect, naturally more strongly felt by
Italians than by foreigners, is that, in spite of the trouble
he took to acquire pure Tuscan, he never was able to attain
that hardly definable something, that atticism (let us call
it), which in former days had gone far to redeem works
of little or no sterling merit. The comedies Goldoni wrote
in his native dialect are looked upon by Venetians as
The natural order of things would prescribe that, having
reviewed the fortunes of comedy and the melodrama in the
eighteenth century, we should now proceed to consider the
position of tragedy during the same epoch. It will be con-
venient, however, at this point to allude to certain persons
who, though they do not rank high as original writers, played
no unimportant part in the regeneration of Italian letters.
The special task assigned to them was that of bringing before
their country models of good writing. During the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, ages sufficiently unlike his own,
Dante's influence had ceased to operate. Now, in the general
but vague desire for reform, attention began once more to
be paid to him. An account of the way this came about will
show better than anything else the depravation of taste and
the depth to which Dante had sunk in the estimation of his
The restitution to the great Florentine of his rightful place
is due in a large measure to Alfonso Varano (1705-1 788), a
man of distinguished family, who spent his whole life in the
122 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
study of the national literature. He seems to have attempted
many sorts of composition, sonnets, panegyrics and the like ;
but his most famous poem, apart from those which will
shortly be named, is his Incanteismo, an eclogue which won
for him fame throughout Italy. He composed some re-
spectable tragedies also in imitation of Maffei's Merope. It
is doubtful, however, whether all these works combined would
have given him lasting remembrance without his Visioni, the
origin of which was as follows :
The theory had been enounced by Voltaire that Chris-
tianity is as much opposed to poetry as paganism is
favourable to it. Varano, who was a very pious man, was
greatly scandalized by this saying and resolved to confute it.
In the preface to his Visioni he cites Dante, in particular the
episode of Ugolini, as worthy of comparison with anything in
the entire range of pagan literature. The Visioni themselves,
based on Dante and the books of the Bible, present a notable
contrast to Varano's earlier works, written in a flowery and
grandiloquent style, and accordingly after the success of his
Visioni he rejected several as unripe juvenile compositions.
To-day it is not easy to comprehend the enthusiasm which
greeted the Visioni, and led even Frugoni to indite compli-
mentary verses to ' his excellence the divine Alfonso Varano/
The harshness, dissonance and Dantesque rhythm, gained
by lavish expenditure of midnight oil or wanton abuse of
daylight, only show that Dante is inimitable.
Varano's action was not universally approved. The
Arcadians and the partisans of French literature regarded
it as a direct challenge to themselves. Count Francesco
Algarotti (1712-1764), especially, amused himself with dis-
creditable sarcasms concerning Dante, and, in collaboration
with Frugoni and Bettinelli, edited a book of blank verse as
IX.] THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION. I 23
a model for novices. Algarotti, however, was a courtier, and
with the astuteness born of long intercourse with princes
perceived that the wind was veering in Dante's favour. He
therefore dissociated himself from his colleagues and declared
that he had had no share in Bettinelli's evil designs. Saverio
Bettinelli (1718-1808) was a Jesuit, a man of keen obser-
vant intellect, but shallow. As he outlived Parini and Alfieri
and was older than Monti and Foscolo, he was called in his
old age the Nestor of Italian men of letters, and at one time
his Risorgimento (T Italia enjoyed a high reputation. Patriotic
Italians, however, will never forgive his Lettere di Virgilio agli
Arcadi, a senseless libel, in which with impudence and pro-
fanity he assailed the Father of Italian Literature. These
disgraceful epistles drew a reply, Difesa di Dante, from Gas-
pare Gozzi. Gaspare, unlike his brother, was naturally mo-
dest and retiring, but the burning indignation which he felt
at Bettinelli's indecencies overcame all his reserve. When in
1758 Antonio Zappi, a Venetian, projected a splendid edition
of all Dante's works, he invited Gaspare Gozzi to write a vin-
dication of the poet. Gozzi accepted the offer ; but, instead of
answering Bettinelli in his own vulgar and declamatory style,
assumed a pleasant ironical tone. He paints the excitement
of the shades in Elysium over the Virgilian letters. The poets
assembled there accuse Bettinelli of forgery and counsel him
to read over the Commedia at his leisure, that so he may judge
of it with greater modesty and discretion. This intelligence
is supposed to have been communicated to Zappi by Anton
Francesco Doni, an eccentric genius of the sixteenth century.
Gaspare Gozzi (1713-1786) was so worthy and amiable
that a few words may fitly be spared to him. He was born
of an illustrious family at Venice and, having been bereft of
his parents in childhood, devoted himself to literature. He
124 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
married a wife of like tastes with himself, and they had many
children. As Gozzi had no aptitude for business, his patri-
mony was soon spent, and he was compelled to eke out a
livelihood by correcting proofs, writing reviews and pre-
faces, and translating from those languages with which he
was conversant. However, he did not entirely forswear ori-
ginal composition, and Monti calls him the most classical
prose-writer of his age. It is fitting, therefore, to divide his
writings into two classes those which are mere journey-work,
as for instance a version he made of a very long work by
Fleury, and those more properly his own. Of the latter
the most celebrated are his Osservatore and Sermoni. The
Osservatore was a periodical, copied from the Spectator of
Addison and his friends, and in contributing to it Gozzi dis-
played a prolific faculty for invention, an easy and graceful
style, purity of language, and an urbane but most poignant
satire. He thus won the name of the Lucian of Italy. In
his Sermoni he chose Horace as a pattern and happily illus-
trated his theory of what imitation in these cases ought to be.
This is, that the earlier writer may be taken as a guide up to
a certain point, after which the disciple should be able to strike
out a course for himself.
Gozzi' s judgment was distinguished by its sanity and
moderation, qualities conspicuously lacking in his friejid
Giuseppe Baretti (17171789). The latter, however, was no
less zealous a crusader against bad taste. In his youth he
had been an omnivorous reader, and the habit seems to have
occasioned his well-wishers some alarm. At any rate, one
day a certain acquaintance, eager for the boy's improvement,
tore from him a copy of Marini and gave him one of Berni
instead. From that moment Berni became his god. In
1751 Baretti passed over to England, where he published
IX.] THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION. 125
the Italian Library and his fine dictionary, and made the
acquaintance of Johnson, Burke, and other eminent men.
On his return he availed himself of his English studies to
attempt by criticism a reform of the national literature. But
for this task Baretti was hardly qualified. He had nothing
of the calmness, the self-possession of a philosopher; but
was, on the contrary, vehement, obstinate, intolerant, the
slave of his own predilections. His Frusta Letteraria is
remarkable for the honesty, variety, and capriciousness of
its judgments. He pronounced on writers without the least
regard to the times in which they lived, and, led away by some
inscrutable prejudice, fiercely attacked a great author for the
object of elevating an obscure poetaster. Evidently this
Frusta is a book which craves cautious handling. It con-
tains ample proofs of Baretti's genius and independence, but
if his opinions had prevailed the result would have been
chaos. Baretti died in 1789 in London.
The writer, however, who contributed most of all to the
overthrow of the Arcadians was Melchiorre Cesarotti
(1730-1808). He made his debut in literature by translating
a tragedy of Aeschylus and three of Voltaire. These ver-
sions are not at all out of the common they may even be
described as weak. Cesarotti, however, formed a close friend-
ship with one of the Sackvilles, who told him of the poems of
Ossian, then recently published by Macpherson. Fascinated
by such specimens as could be conveyed to him in bad
Italian, Cesarotti set himself to learn English. In about six
months he had translated into Italian verse all of Ossian
which had been published up to that date. Ossian's poems,
as is well known, occasioned great controversy their
authenticity was impugned. But the question whether or
not they are genuine has no bearing on their importance as
126 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
regards Italy. Macpherson's prose was often rough, bom-
bastic, ungainly. The Italian verse of Cesarotti, on the con-
trary, was most elegant. He repeated Chiabrera's experi-
ment of combining words, but carried it to far greater lengths.
As was natural, the Arcadians were horrified at his licence
and did their best to put him down ; but the magic of his
verse had an ineffable charm for the generality of Italians,
attracted both by its novelty and splendour. Cesarotti there-
fore triumphed signally.
A few years later he ventured on a still more daring
attempt by offering to treat Homer in the same summary
manner as the Caledonian bard. Considering that respect
for Homer was in a large measure conventional, and that the
Iliad was simply a mass of materials for some great future
poem, he, Cesarotti, undertook to construct that poem.
As evidence of his intention he changed the title of the work
and called it Morte d' Ettore. Although it was allowed both
by friends and foes that the poem had in it many eloquent
passages, Cesarotti's warmest, most sincere admirers, deplored
its production, and he himself, perceiving his mistake, joined
in the general laugh which consigned his precious Iliad to
oblivion. Cesarotti's prose was elegant but not in the Italian
manner. His style in fact was adapted from the French,
and Foscolo observed that Cesarotti would be found, if the
terminations were altered, to have written not only in French
but in very good French.
Chiefly through the patronage of Maria Theresa and
Joseph II, the primacy of literature, which had once per-
tained to Florence, was now transferred to Milan. There
Giuseppe Parini (1729-1790) attempted to do for letters
what Beccaria and others had already accomplished for moral
science. Parini was born of poor parents, and a large part
IX.] THE FORER UNNERS OF THE RE VOL UTION. 127
of his life was spent under conditions which were most hateful
to his noble and aspiring temper. He was first a lawyer's
clerk and then, after his poems had procured for him some
repute, a tutor in different aristocratic families. Although
the scenes which he had to witness were extremely
odious to him, they had their value, for they quickened his
observation and afforded subjects for his pen. Among
Italian men of letters at this time there were two parties the
grammarians, who clung to the traditional style, without,
however, infusing a breath of real interest into it, and the
progressists who, in adopting French ideas, imported along
with them French idioms. Parini took a middle course.
Whilst an advocate of progress, he attempted to keep the
Italian language as pure as possible. Eventually he was
appointed professor of eloquence at the Studio di Brera at
Milan, and lectured on literature. His discourses, wherein
he eschews grandeur of expression and imposing abstractions,
are a standing testimony to his good sense and delicacy of
taste. Unlike his contemporary Francesco Milizia, who,
in order to dispose of the Michelangiolists, was disrespectful
to the great sculptor himself, Parini could appreciate Petrarch
and those who successfully imitated him, and yet mete out a
just condemnation to those who, by mingled feebleness and
ambition, had made ' Petrarchist ' a term of reproach.
But Parini was something more than a critic. His ode
Caduta, in which he gave a practical illustration of his
principles, is one of the most felicitous in Italian literature.
His chief work, however, is a mock didactic poem // Gwrno.
As has been said, Parini in his quality of tutor had ample
opportunities for studying the manners of the great, and the
sentiment which the spectacle had evoked was that of disgust.
Parini was not alone in that feeling. An immense number
128 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
of satirists were at work scourging the conscience. Unfor-
tunately, this open method of war produced not the least
impression on the objects of their attack, and Parini, with his
profound knowledge of the human heart, perceived that the
surest means for effecting his purpose was to dissemble. He
composed a work which was as striking for the novelty of
the design as for the perfect way in which that design was
executed. The author feigns to instruct a young nobleman
in the duties and usages with which he will have to comply
if he aspires to the character of a finished gentleman. In
order to do this more conveniently he breaks up the day into
its four component parts Mattino, Mezzogiorno^ Vespro and
Notte the titles of the subdivisions of the poem. Partly
that he might give a greater vraisemblance to his work, partly
to enhance the irony, Parini enters into the minutest details
and gravely sets forth the infinite follies constituting the code
77 Giorno is a work of high genius. Not only is it written
in a most exquisite style, but the arrangement evinces great
judgment. A mere enumeration, however skilful, might have
affected us with a sense of monotony, but Parini forestalls this
possibility by weaving in some admirable episodes, such as
the story of the invention of trie trac, the discovery of the
sofa, the peace between Cupid and Hymenaeus, the origin of
social inequality, and the recital of the ills of a domestic
guilty of treading on the foot of the vergine Caccia delle
Grazie alunna. The poem is in blank verse, of which Parini
has a rare mastery. Frugoni, who regarded this class of
poetry as his special province, confessed after reading Parini
that he never knew till then how to write blank verse. And
yet Parini was dissatisfied. As he went on he seemed to gain,
more and more, fresh insight into the potentialities of his
IX.] THE FORERUNNERS OF THE REVOLUTION. 1 39
art. This caused him to delay the publication of the last two
parts of his Giorno, which, in effect, only saw the light after
his death. To us, however, they appear quite as finished as
we could have hoped, nor can anyone detect the slightest
inequality between the later and the earlier instalments.
Among Parini's contemporaries were many writers of note.
Passeroni (1713-1803) indited a long epic in caricature on
the life of Cicero, which, however, cannot be commended.
He was more happy in his fables. This latter sort of poetry
was cultivated also by Pignotti (1739-1812), author of a
history of Tuscany, by Bertola (1753-1798) and by Clasio,
and their works are still read with pleasure. The only other
author to whom we need pay attention is Giambattista Casti
(1721-1804), who wrote a poetical satire on the European
courts entitled Animali Parlanti. He composed also several
melodramas of a comic nature, notably Congiura di Catilina,
and a political satire on the Russian Court, in eight-lined
stanzas, // Poema Tar tar o. These works display considerable
talent, but repel by their coarseness.
THE TRAGEDIANS AND MELI.
THE vicissitudes of the tragic drama during the eighteenth
century have now to be recorded. In reference to Scipione
MafFei mention was made incidentally of Merope. This play
was represented first of all at Modena, and then repeatedly
in various cities of Italy. Maffei was overwhelmed with
congratulations from every part of Europe. His tragedy was
translated by Pope. Voltaire also thought very highly of
it, wrote a flattering letter to the author antf afterwards com-
posed a piece on the same subject, when, characteristically,
he published some disparaging remarks about it under an
assumed name. In Italy itself, where theatrical taste was not
yet thoroughly educated, Merope was compelled to submit to
certain transformations. It was reduced to prose, love-scenes
and interludes were inserted in it ; but from the moment of
its production it became a necessary part of every manager's
Whilst Gravina, like most other wise critics, exerted himself
to quell the Gallicizing spirit, Pier Jacopo Martello (1665-
1727) did his best to foster it. He caused French plays to be
translated and turned into prose, and, having seen them in high
THE TRAGEDIANS AND MELT. 131
favour with the audience, endeavoured to introduce French
tragedy bodily without any alteration in structure, mechanism,
or even versification. He was very anxious that the metre of
tragedy should be Alexandrine, and sought to find precedents
for it. He could not, however, find anything later or more
relevant than some fragments of Ciullo d' Alcamo. As this
did not satisfy the critics, Martello fell back on another
method of justifying himself. He declared that his verse was
italianissimo, that it consisted in fact of two short hepta-
syllabic verses like those employed by Speroni in his Canace.
Owing to the controversy which arose about them the verses
in question received the name Martelliani^ but they were never
domesticated in Italian tragedy. Occasionally they were used
in playful compositions, and they were adopted, in some of his
writings, by Qoldoni.
Maffei was a sincere admirer of French tragedy, but, as he
was not blind to its defects, he did not allow himself to be
trapped into the prevalent belief that the dramas of the reign
of Louis XIV were equal to those of Sophocles. He knew
also that the great French writers were indebted for not a few
hints to his own countrymen of an earlier date, that for
examples of tragic writing an Italian need not look abroad.
He, therefore, tried to copy the excellences of Trissino,
Rucellai, Giraldi,Tasso and others, whilst avoiding their faults.
And in this he was greatly aided by the criticisms of Tassoni,
Zeno and Muratori.
Maffei's Merope did not owe its fame to mere accident.
It has much intrinsic merit. The scenes are skilfully laid,
the characters are veracious, and there is a great variety of
accident. Yet this drama had no progeny. It was not given
to Maffei to create a school of tragedy. That distinction
was reserved for Vittorio Alfieri. Before referring to that
132 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
great master of dramatic composition it will be right to
devote some space to Antonio Conti (1677-1749), who
enriched his country with four pieces of political tragedy.
Conti lived for some time in England, where he learnt to love
Shakespeare. On his return to Italy, at the mature age of
fifty, he conceived the thought of carrying tragedy a step
further than Maffei had brought it, and, adopting a suggestion
of Gravina, chose his subjects out of ancient Roman history.
He composed, one after another, Giunio Bruto, Marco Bruto,
Cesare and Druso. These dramas are best on the side of
invention. Thus in Giunio Bruto Conti makes Tito, son of
the liberator, fall in love with the daughter of the tyrant. The
episode is admirably introduced, and that for two reasons :
first because it leads to interesting situations, and secondly
because it gives further expression to the grand but inexor-
able character of the protagonist. The most serious defect
in Conti' s plays is their want of artistic form. In his moral
conception of the drama he may possibly excel Al fieri ; but in
other qualities, such as male and sinewy language, pregnant
breviloquence in the dialogue, and dramatic movement, he
comes far short of him. This, perhaps, was because he did
not pay attention to dramatic poetry till late in life, or he may
have had a greater faculty for conceiving ideas than for putting
them into execution.
The life of Alfieri (1749-1803) reads like a romance. It
is a remarkable instance of genius triumphing over difficulties
of a most unusual kind. He was born of a noble family at
Asti, and, like others of his class, he appears to have regarded
literary studies as a disparagement to his rank. As a boy he j
was sent to school, but he seems to have turned his oppor-i
tunities to little or no account, and when the time came for
him to bid his preceptors good-bye, felt it a blessed release.
X.] THE TRAGEDIANS AND MELI. 133
Thereafter he plunged into amusements and dissipations,
but amidst them all was continually tormented by an inward
unrest, as though in some way he were not fulfilling his
destiny. At this time his reading entirely consisted of a few
French novels and a drama or two of Metastasio, but, far
from comprehending the true worth of the latter, he thought
of them as libretti.
In January, 1774, when Alfieri was watching by the bed-
side of a sick mistress, the idea struck him of relieving the
weary hours by sketching the scene of a play in which the
persons were to be Photinus, a woman whom he ignorantly
named Lachesis, and Cleopatra. The drama, under the title
of Cleopatra, was acted about a year later in the Teatro
Carignano at Turin and received with great applause. This
unlooked-for success threw the lucky, or luckless, author into
a state of cruel perplexity. He was, he knew, utterly desti-
tute of equipment for a literary career. Here at twenty-
seven he was ignorant even of the rudiments of learning !
Except when he availed himself of the Piedmontese dialect, he
had always been used to speak French, and did not know a
jot of Italian properly so called. In order to fit himself for
his mission he underwent a strict apprenticeship. As a first
step he placed himself in the charge of a tutor that he might
learn those simple lessons \\hich he had neglected in boy-
hood. He then betook himself to Tuscany, where Italian
was spoken in the greatest purity, and attempted to rid him-
self of the Gallicisms which clung to him as the effect of
long usage, and from which to the last he could never wholly
emancipate himself. Here, however, he was confirmed in
his determination to win for Italy that distinction in tragedy
which Gravina, Maffei and Conti, with all their philosophizing
and poetizing, had failed to achieve. Having made up his
134 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
mind to this, he published a kind of manifesto Delia
tirannide, in which he announced himself as the uncom-
promising advocate of liberty, in politics, in morals, and in
Alfieri wrote many works widely differing in character,
and by no means of uniform merit, but all breathe a
generous love of country, and have as their supreme
object the making of an Italian nation. Owing to their
number it is impossible to go over all in detail. It must
suffice to select the more important. His epic Etruria
Liberata, in which he sings of the assassination of Alessandro
de' Medici by his kinsman Lorenzino, need not detain us.
The time had gone by for the writing of epics, and Alfieri's
impulsive temperament ill suited him for the composition
of a work demanding the easy flow, pompous description,
and full treatment of a heroic poem. His version of the
Aeneid, made for his own pleasure, and on which, being
a labour of love, he bestowed all possible pains, shows
clearly enough that his talents did not lie in this direction.
He slightly improved the sonnet of his day by giving to it a
robuster gait, but his odes, though the subjects are worthy
of Pindar e.g. America Liber ata and Parigi Sbastigliato
are wanting in force, His satire verges too much on
invective ; he is too pungent and direct, and of the subtle
irony of Parini he has nothing. His epigrams partake of the
same fault, though some of them are very fine, and both in
epigram and satire he is distinctly original. His prose is full
of matter; the style is manly, and the language, with the
exceptions already noted, pure.
One cause of offence, which pervades all his writings but
is most visible in his prose, is a harshness in the rhythm.
It is hard to say from what this defect arose, whether acci-
X.] THE TRAGEDIANS AND MELI. 135
dentally, from the fact that he wrote Italian, so to speak, as
a foreigner, or, as is not impossible, from a deliberate inten-
tion, his object being to win back the language from the
nervelessness and flaccidity to which it had been reduced
by the grammarians. In any case it is a defect. To say,
however, with some, that Alfieri must be regarded as a philo-
sopher and not as an artist, is a gross mistake. This may
be true of him as a prose -writer, but, applied to his dramatic
composition, the verdict is ludicrously false. His dramas
are of a simplicity which is in striking contrast with the con-
ception of the art then prevalent, and which it might be
thought was copied from Greece. The reverse, however, is
the truth. At the time when he began to write, he did not
know so much as the names of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and
Euripides, and, never having read any French tragedies, was
not acquainted with their methods, even indirectly.
The co-incidence, therefore, is fortuitous, or rather, we
might say, is to be ascribed to identical conclusions worked
out by men in whom tragedy was incarnate. One of these
conclusions was that nothing must be introduced to disturb
the illusion. This was the real meaning of the three unities,
of time, place, and action : and Alfieri by sheer instinct
obeyed the same rule. This instinct was affirmed by medi-
tation and his dramas, commencing from his abbozzaccio, as
he called it, Cleopatra to Saul, and the two Bruttfs show a
progressive development towards that ideal of tragedy which
had limned itself on his mind. Alfieri banished the rabble
of superfluous characters and concentrated his energies on
the leading personages, who, while they are designed on a
colossal scale, are rounded off with the patient unfaltering
hand of a master. His Saul, in particular, is gigantic
and not unworthy of a place beside the Prometheus of
136 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
Aeschylus. Alfieri's extraordinary success is largely owing to
what seemed at first an insuperable obstacle his illiteracy.
It was this which gave him boldness and independence,
which made him refuse to bow to convention and vain
Alfieri had a theory that towards the age of forty the crea-
tive powers of the mind are exhausted, and that a writer
should then abandon original composition for the exercise of
his critical faculties. Conformably with this opinion he did
not attempt, after that period, to add to his list of tragedies.
His last years were spent in learning Greek, speculating on
art, translating the classics, and criticising his own works.
As regards the last, he pointed out with admirable candour
what he considered to be their defects, while, at the same
time, he did not allow himself to be prevented by a false
feeling of modesty from instancing their merits. He thus, as
it were, combated in advance the attacks which were made on
his reputation by A. W. Schlegel, and which were taken up,
to their everlasting shame, by a horde of degenerate Italians.
Alfieri's translations of Aristophanes and Terence are good,
and occasionally even brilliant, but it must be confessed, his
genius does not lend itself much to works of this class. His
own comedies, of which he wrote six, are deficient in the
negligent ease, the happy abandon which is the essence of
good comedy. On the whole, however, Alfieri is one of the
grandest figures in Italian literature since Tasso.
It will be convenient at this point to take a side-glance at
Sicily, the birth-place of Italian literature. At length, in the
eighteenth century, after a long period of sterility, there
began to appear in it new signs of life. Among the Sicilians
who distinguished themselves at this time may be mentioned
Caruso, Mongitore, Di Giovanni, Amico and Testa. Mon-
XJ THE TRAGEDIANS AND MELT. 137
gitore especially worked in the field of Sicilian biography,
and produced an immense work, entitled Bibliotheca Sicula,
comprising the lives of the most eminent Sicilians from the
earliest times to his own. The compilation, however, though
a monument of patience and erudition, is wholly uncritical.
At a much later period Domenico Scina, in order to justify
his existence as royal historiographer, wrote an account of
Sicilian literature during the eighteenth century. From these
writings it is evident that there was always a plentiful supply
of learned men in the island, of whom, however, not one
attained to real distinction. The reason is probably twofold :
first, the political isolation of Sicily, and secondly, its distance
from Tuscany, compelling scholars to learn the Tuscan speech
as a dead language from books.
Meantime the native Sicilian dialect was not quite neglected.
From the sixteenth century onwards we meet with a goodly
number of writers all striving to ennoble their mother speech.
Such, for example, are Antonio Veneziano (surnamed the
Sicilian Petrarch), Monsignore Requesens Rao, Eredia, Val-
legio, Giudici, Aversa, Gaetani, Montagna, Rallo, Triolo,
Puglisi, Catania, and many others. The most ambitious
however was Giuseppe Vitali, the Blind Man of Ganci, who
wrote a long epic poem Sicilia Liberata, which treated of the
Norman conquest of the island, and which, defective as we
now find it, was the admiration of his contemporaries. Still
greater celebrity was gained by Domenico Tempio, not
so much from his talents as from the impurity of his
poems, which in this respect are worthy to rank with
Tempio' s popularity was at its height when Giovanni
Meli (1740-1815), not then twenty years of age, published
his Fata Galante, a bernesque poem which, despite the remi-
138 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
niscences which it contained of other writers, had so abundant
a vein of poetry, such a troop of happy phrases, such exquisite
and natural tints, as instantly to eclipse all rival compositions ;
and Sicily, full of enthusiasm, riveted its attention on the
young aspirant from whom it confidently expected achieve-
ments as yet unparalleled. These expectations were not
destined to fall. Meli, as an ecclesiastical dignitary, had the
entree into the halls of the nobles, then (owing to the Spanish
ascendancy) intensely exclusive and aristocratic, and his re-
searches in science had made him Professor of Chemistry in
the University of Palermo, but he never allowed himself to
be seduced by extraneous ambitions. He fraternized with
the people, observed their ways, learnt their proverbs, and
thus caught their essential spirit. His writings therefore
have a distinct and original and indigenous flavour, like those
Meli composed quite an encyclopaedia of verse eclogues,
lyrical poems, satires, elegies, fables, of which a large number
were published after his decease. The three most important
are his Fata Galante already mentioned, Don Chisciotte^ and
Origine del Mondo. In Don Chtsciotte, a mock heroic poem,
Meli pretends that Cervantes has omitted some doughty deeds
of the knight which are well worthy of being sung. While,
however, the composition has many excellent points, notably
a lively fancy, one acquainted with Cervantes' masterpiece
necessarily misses the charm of novelty. The real hero is
not Don Quixote, but Sancho Panza, whose shade in the
concluding ' vision ' appears to the author and converses with
him on the moral of the poem. Although it must needs
forego the praise of originality Don Chisciotte cannot be
refused such honour as is due to glamour of style and still
greater glamour of colouring.
X.] THE TRAGEDIANS AND MELI. 139
Mali's Origine del Mondo is a pleasant satire on various
philosophical theories regarding the origin of the world.
Jupiter is depicted in the midst of his celestial family,
who debate as to the best mode of creating the world
which as yet is not. The decision ultimately is that it
shall be composed of Jupiter's body, which is forthwith
pulled to pieces. In allusion to the ancient arms of the
island (representing a head with three legs bended) Sicily
is imagined to have been formed from the head of the
god. It is evident the poem has a special reference to
Meli's odes are somewhat clogged by the mythological
harness in which, obediently to the ideas of the age, he
deemed it necessary to envelop them. His fables are inge-
nious and some of them original, while in naturalness of
expression he far surpasses most modern fabulists. As a
satirist he is keen, but not brutal. Meli wrote also a dith-
yramb which even Sicilians unacquainted with the drinking
customs and slang of the people find hard reading, but which
to a connoisseur in such matters affords fresh proof of his ex-
traordinary powers. His best work, however, is his pastoral
and anacreontic verse, in which he will never be excelled.
Though born in the land of idylls he did not copy Theocritus
versions of Anacreon, however, existed for the all-sufficient
reason that he did not know the Greek alphabet. On the
contrary, what he did was to examine the popular songs of
his country, not that he might ape them, but that he might
win their secret the art of writing naturally. Meli's poetry
is quite untranslatable, so much depending on nuances
or shades of meaning which a foreigner is incapable of
appreciating, and for which peninsular Italian can find no
real or satisfying expressions. By his contemporaries
140 ITALIAN LITERATURE.
Alfieri, Cesarotti, Casti, Monti Meli was held in the highest
esteem. They all knew him to be no mere dealer in pro-
vincialisms, seeking a spurious reputation by eccentricity
and caprice, but a genuine poet brimful of the noblest
THE REVOLUTION AND THE REACTION.
THE eighteenth and the earl} 7 part of the nineteenth century
cannot be said to have produced historians at all comparable
to Machiavelli or Sarpi. There was, it is true, indefatigable
research. Every cranny almost in the peninsula was ransacked
for evidence of the past, but the writers of the period either
devoted themselves to particular aspects of history, or by accu-
mulating material prepared the way for future historians.
Reference has been already made to Muratori, the father
or, as he has been termed, perhaps more accurately, foster
father of modern Italian history. Next in succession was
Pietro Giannone (1676-1748). He was born in a village
of Monte Gargano, and his parents, advised of his
unusual talents, sent him to Naples, where he had as his
teacher the learned Aulisio. Unlike the majority of those
who have been mentioned in the course of this narrative,
Giannone entered into his legal studies with zest, and made
himself known by his essays on the origin of Roman Law.
It was thus that he became cognizant of a void in Italian
literature. There were many histories descriptive of war
and external politics, but a civil history one, that is to say,
commemorating the changes of laws and institutions under
the various governments which successively sprang up in
1 42 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
different parts of the peninsula there was none. Giannone,
however, perceived that a task of such magnitude, if it was to
be properly carried out, was beyond the powers of any
individual writer. Accordingly he resolved to limit f his work
to the kingdom of Naples. Whilst occupied with it, he
happened to be engaged in a suit in which it fell to his lot to
defend the rights of certain citizens against the encroach-
ments of the bishops. This necessitated the inspection of
an enormous number of church laws, decretals, edicts, privi-
leges, and customs, and Giannone was led to see that civil
history at any rate in the catholic world could not be
dealt with apart from ecclesiastical history. He arrived at
the conclusion that the secular power of the church, and
especially the old feudal pretensions of the Court of Rome
to the States of Naples and Sicily, had been a fruitful cause
of controversies and discords. His composition, therefore,
is somewhat in the nature of a polemic or, it might be
stricter to say of a scientific work, being a perpetual discus-
sion of law. This consideration will serve to excuse its
artistic defects and the frequent thefts from Porzio, Costanzo
and other historians of Naples. Each of the forty books into
which the history is divided sets out with a brief historical
proem, which is made, as it were, the pivot for subsequent
disquisitions. The chief fault of Giannone' s work is this :
during the many centuries his history traverses he sees only
the Empire and the Church contending for the mastery.
The position of the people he totally ignores.
A very voluminous writer, who possessed a vivid imagina-
tion, was Carlo Denina (1731-1813). He was one of the
class who delighted to call themselves beaux esprits, and first
brought himself into notice by a work on the vicissitudes of
literature showy enough, but unsubstantial. For this he
XI.] THE REVOLUTION AND THE REACTION. 143
was visited with the sarcasms of Voltaire, and Denina's fortune
was made. The highest achievement, however, was a
historical work entitled Rivoluzioni d' Italia in which he
displays not only much learning, but something also of the
philosophic spirit, since he attempts to explore the hidden
causes which lay behind the events.
One of the most thoughtful and generously written works
of the age is Pietro Verri's Storia di Milano. Verri (1728-
1797) might have ranked with the greatest historians of his
country but for one grievous and, indeed, unpardonable fault
his negligent and almost barbarous style. In his Pensieri
on the spirit of Italian literature, he vehemently protests
against the tyranny of the schools, embodied in those whom
he names the Aristotelians of letters ; and full of disgust at
the vices of the parolai or word-mongers, he positively glories
in uncouthness. That this was largely affectation is proved
by those passages in which, involuntarily as it were, he rises
to eloquence and power. The materials of the Storia were
drawn, to a considerable extent, from the Memorie della Citta
e della Campagna di Milano of his countryman Giulini, but
notwithstanding this and his faults as a stylist, the Milanesi
persist in regarding him as the best of their historians.
The man who should restore history to its earlier symmetry
and graceful artistic form was, however, yet to appear. In
1808 Carlo Botta (1766-1837) published his Storia della
guerra della Indepenza americana, which is incontestably a
masterpiece. Botta was a physician and, moreover, took an
active part in politics, but he managed to find time for
indulging his taste for literature. His admiration for the
Latin and Greek historians, and even more for the Italian
historians of the sixteenth century, amounted to superstition.
From them he gleaned those felicities, those charms of
144 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
language, which form such a pleasing contrast with the
harshness and morosity of the Storia di Milano. If Botta' s
Storia d' America was received with favour, his Storia d' Italia,
comprising the twenty-five eventful years from the outbreak
of the French Revolution to the fall of Buonaparte, was
hailed with enthusiasm. There were several reasons why
this was the case. Botta, emboldened by the success of his
first writing, displayed greater freedom both in thought and
expression. The subject also was a national one, and it was
treated by the writer with all the glow of patriotic sentiment.
By some, indeed, Botta is accused of malignity towards the
French. They say that he has painted Napoleon far blacker
than the emperor ever deserved. The justice of this accusa-
tion may be doubted, and even if it were found to be true, it
must be remembered that Botta was still smarting from his
wounds and hardly amenable therefore to the ordinary rules
of criticism. A more valid objection is that Botta is deficient
in insight, that he does not understand the political game of
chess, as appears still more evidently in his continuation of
Lastly must be named Pietro Colletta (1775-1831). This
writer was born at Naples; studied mathematics and
embraced the profession of a soldier. In 1799 he was
imprisoned and cashiered, he then became a civil engineer.
Seven years later he rejoined the army, and under Murat
attained the rank of major-general. After the return of the
Bourbons he was suffered to keep his post, and on the out-
break of the revolution of 1821 was sent to Sicily to restore
order. When Naples was seized by the Austrians, Colletta
was first imprisoned and afterwards banished to Moravia
whence he made his way to Florence. Here he was urged by
several literary friends to set down his reminiscences of the
XI.] THE REVOLUTION AND THE REACTION. 145
events in which he had been implicated, but for Colletta, who
was wholly unversed in good Italian, this was no easy matter.
The difficulty, however, was surmounted, partly through
Colletta's own indefatigable study, and partly through the
kindness of those same literary friends in revising his
manuscript; and, as the final result, the work had all the
appearance of being written by a veteran in authorship.
Among the poets that adorned the period of the Revolu-
tion, none is more prominent than Vincenzo Monti (1754-
1828), who was bom in Romagna and came to Rome to seek
his fortune. The first composition by which he attracted
notice was a poem in honour of a celebrated preacher. It
was a biblical vision in the manner of Varano. Although
Monti was then only sixteen years old, the piece was highly
commended, and deemed to possess merits not to be
traced in its supposed model. After this Monti quickly
rose to the position of the leading man of letters in Italy.
Unfortunately for his fame his great abilities were not
balanced by a corresponding strength of character, and his
works bear witness to his successive apostasies. His poems
may be divided into three classes: first, those written in
support of the Papacy and to discredit the French Revolu-
tion ; secondly, those indited in the hour of the Revolution's
triumph ; thirdly, those composed after the accession to power
of Napoleon Buonaparte. It ought, however, in extenuation
of this weakness to be recorded that, though Monti's public
career was deformed by shameless recantations, in private
he was kindest and most indulgent of men. His poetry
is clearly influenced by study of the Divine Comedy, which
in Monti's youth had been drawn from obscurity by the
imitations of Varano, Bettinelli's Lettere, and Gozzi's reply.
Almost all Monti's compositions take the form of a vision,
146 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
and this is the case with the very greatest of them all, Bassvil-
liana. The hero of the poem (which is left unfinished at the
end of the fourth canto) is Hugo Bassville, an agent of
the French Republican Government, who, on his arrival at
Rome, was torn to pieces by the infuriated populace. While
his corpse lies unburied on the banks of the Tiber, his spirit
is conducted by an angel on a mysterious pilgrimage. The
poet takes occasion to review the chief events of the Revo-
lution and mercilessly chastises the writers who had been
the primary cause of it. In his Pericolo and Super stizione,
poems which belong to the second period of Monti's literary
existence,, he quite alters his tone. To his jaundiced eye
Louis XVI now appears a tyrant and Pius VI, erewhile
praised as a strict and holy pastor, is vilified in outrageous
terms. Thirdly, in his Giove terreno, Spada di Federigo,
Bardo della selva nera, Jerogamia di Creta, and Api Pana-
cridi, Monti becomes an abject worshipper of Napoleon.
After Buonaparte's exit, with the same venality for which he
had been always notorious, he made his peace with the
victors, and ceasing to pour forth heroic strains, applied
himself to the safe, though somewhat humdrum pursuit of
The world of letters was then agitated by an effort at
reform on the part of a sect who, in contradistinction to
frenchified writers, called themselves Purists. This movement
was the natural sequel to the vigorous protests of those great
Italian intellects referred to in the last chapter, but in the hands
of the present leaders it was carried to a ridiculous extreme.
The most fanatical among them was Antonio Cesari, who
could find nothing in the compositions of the moderns to
satisfy him. He himself wrote a variety of works including
novels, three large volumes which he entitled Bellezze della
XI.] THE REVOLUTION AND THE REACTION. 147
Divina Commedta, translations of several Latin poets, and an
Antidoto per i giovani studiosi, in which he warned novices
against all literature posterior to the fourteenth century.
This egregious apostle of purism Monti resolved to assail,
in which enterprise he took as his ally his son-in-law Giulio
Perticari. The latter, while not a man of great intel-
lectual resource, possessed excellent taste, and was therefore
well qualified to be Monti's lieutenant. The fruit of their
joint labours was a work entitled Proposta di correzioni al
Vocabolario della Crusca, which, though only a grammatical
treatise, has on it the gleam of genius.
To conclude what requires to be said about Monti most
of his work is characterized by monotony of invention. He
is always bringing spectres and shades of heroes on the
stage. Hence his poetry has been termed with some force
a perpetual phantasmagoria. Monti wrote three tragedies.
Of these Caw Graccho is the best, possessing, indeed, con-
siderable merit, though the writer exhibits too great a tendency
to declamation. More notable than his dramas is his trans-
lation of the Iliad, which is considered equal to Pope's.
Contemporary with Monti, though a good deal younger, was
Ugo Foscolo (1777-1827). This celebrated writer and patriot
was born in the island of Zante, his father being a Venetian
and his mother a Greek. He was sent as a student to the
University of Padua, where he attended Cesarotti's lectures on
the classics. At the age of seventeen he produced a tragedy
in the style of Alfieri, which was acted at Venice. Foscolo
threw himself with the utmost enthusiasm into the revolu-
tionary movement, took service in the army, and was present
at Genoa when that city was invested by the allies. At
twenty-nine, in the room of Monti, he was elected Professor
of Literature at Pavia. A few years later he caused a
148 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
tragedy, Ajace, to be played, in which the authorities de-
tected various distasteful allusions, and he was ordered to
quit the kingdom. He then betook himself to Tuscany, but
eventually, as he found it impossible to adapt himself to
the new conditions, went to live in England, where, thirteen
years after, he died, at the age of fifty.
During the course of his troubled life, Foscolo was the
author of many works. One of the most popular was his
Jacopo Ortis, the Italian ' Sorrows of Werther/ Ortis, however,
is a much finer character than his German prototype, for
whereas Werther falls a victim to his own unhappy passion,
Foscolo's hero is no mere sentimental swain. Grief for the
misfortunes of his country is added, as the motive of his
sacrifice, to the pang of unsuccessful love. Jacopo Ortis was
felt to be a great book, but it had one defect which caused its
writer, subsequently, severe compunction, namely, a negligent
style. Foscolo's chef d'ceuvre is a Jjtfical poem, I Sepolcri.
Before writing it, and soon after the publication of Ortis, he
made proof of his powers in two noble odes in honour of
Luigia Pallavicini. As for / Sepolcri, the cause which im-
mediately inspired it was Foscolo's indignation with the great
people of Milan for allowing the remains of Parini to be
mingled in a common burial-ground with those of robbers
deposited there by the public executioner. The composition
has every merit which such a lyric should have choice
vocabulary, robust style, and ever increasing animation and
fire. It was read by Bettinelli and Monti, and both pronounced
it a masterpiece.
The peculiar feature in / Sepolcri is the wonderful way in
which Foscolo, whilst drawing his images from ancient
literature, vivifies them with his own emotions and weds them
to the circumstances of the hour. It is this which differences
XL] THE REVOLUTION AND THE REACTION. 149
/ Sepolcri from the frigid and artificial imitations of Pindar,
which had been current during three centuries, and accredits
it as real poetry. Following up his success Foscolo designed
three other lyrical compositions, the most notable being his
poem Le Grazie. Of this, however, only fragments were
published. Personal anxieties and the disturbed condition
of public affairs in Italy did not leave him the requisite
ease and leisure for carrying his intentions into effect. To
these causes must be added his high sense of the dignity
of his vocation, in which he has scarcely an equal either
in ancient or modern times, and which made him a rigorous
censor of his own performances. The result was that he
projected a large number of great works, including a
translation of the Iliad, which he never completed.
Foscolo, despite his achievements in lyric poetry, was not
particularly successful in the drama. In this department the
best that can be said of him is that of all Alfred's followers
he is the most like him. His sonnets, on the contrary, in
which he took Casa as a model, are better than those of
Alfieri, and some of them, from their passion and strength,
are as popular as I Sepolcri. Two more works of Foscolo
may be mentioned, his translation of Sterne's Sentimental
Journey and his satire entitled Ipercalissi di Didimo Chicrico,
profeta minimo. The latter is an animated protest, in the
style of the biblical writers, against the scholars of the
peninsula for betraying the cause of their country. Had not
Foscolo himself however supplied the key, the allusions would
have remained excessively obscure. In England Foscolo was
a frequent contributor to the Edinburgh and Quarterly Review,
for which he wrote critical studies on Dante and his age, and
thereby did much to advance the knowledge of Italian litera-
ture in his adopted country. Moved also by sympathy for
150 ITALIAN LITERATURE.
the Greeks in their struggle for independence he began a
work on Homer, but before he had time to finish it, died, it
is to be feared, of sheer misery.
Before ending this account of the revolutionary era, it will
be proper to advert to two other writers Ippolito Pinde-
monti and Giovanni Fantoni. Pindemonti (1753-1828)
made himself famous by his lovely rendering of the Odyssey.
Apart from this he is chiefly celebrated for his rustic poems ;
and his verse, tinged with gentle melancholy, has gained for
him the name of the Italian Tibullus. Fantoni (1759-1807),
better known by his nom de guerre Labindo, wrote lyrical
poetry after Horace, but, with the exception of a few odes
inspired by political subjects, his imitations cannot be termed
ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM.
IT is proposed to deal in this chapter with two phases
of sentiment, which, though universal or rather, it might be
said, incidental to the common human spirit, received special
expression in Italy at the hands of two writers both intel-
lectually gigantesque, but in other respects as wide asunder
as the poles Alessandro Manzoni and Giacomo Leopardi.
As a lesson in psychology it is interesting to note the effects
on these master minds of external conditions. To neither
was the outlook bright, but Manzoni, always serene, always
hopeful, armed himself with patience and, his eyes having
seen the salvation of Italy, departed, very painfully alas ! so
recently as 1873. Leopardi, on the other hand, vexed by
intolerable contradictions, in vain but ceaseless revolt against
nature, imperfectly equipped in the struggle for existence,
the victim of a sort of moral hydrocephalus, perished of
actual dropsy, before he was quite forty years of age.
Of the two Manzoni was the elder. He was born March
7, 1785, and was the son of Pietro Manzoni and Giulia
Beccaria, daughter of the famous economist. Beyond the
bare gift of existence (not a dwpov adwpov as it proved in this
case) Manzoni would seem to have owed very little to his
father. The latter was a stern unbending martinet, possessing
but few attractions for his lovely and accomplished wife, who
152 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
in 1795 left him, and took up her abode with Carlo Imbonati,
a friend of Parini, at Paris. Alessandro's preferences were
all for her and his maternal grandfather, of which fact he
afforded clear testimony by signing himself for a time Manzoni
Beccaria. With regard to his education it is worth notice
that one of his earliest teachers was Soave, author of the
highly edifying Novelle Morali. Subsequently in the Collegio
Longone he came under the influence of the Barnabites.
In the light of his after-career these circumstances may
well seem pre-destined. This at least may be said, that
the writer of / Promessi Sposi, with his pure character and
ecclesiastical bias, could scarcely have fallen on a more fitting
Like others of his craft it is superfluous, though very
apposite, to mention Scott Manzoni began with verse. His
primitiae consisted of four cantos in terza rima, describing
a vision, and the poem had for name // Trionfo della Liberia.
It was modelled on the Bassvilliana and Mascheroniana of
Vincenzo Monti, for whom, in the conclusion, 1 he speaks
a boundless reverence : c io te seguo da lunge! The life of
Manzoni is distinguished by its renunciations, and when he
embraced romanticism, there were features in the Trionfo
which did not commend themselves to him. And yet, in his
mature judgment, it was not altogether bad. He spurned,
indeed, and refused to father the swelling phrase and gar-
nishing of false gods Peace and War and Equality but the
soul of the poem, the puro e virile animo dowering it, this he
continued to accept. His next essay was an idyll, entitled
Adda, which he dedicated to Monti. It was written in
blank verse, and with much finish. Both poems were com-
posed when Manzoni was between fifteen and nineteen years
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. 153
Imbonati having died, Alessandro joined his mother in
Paris. Here he was introduced to the literary celebrities
of the capital in the salon of Madame Condorcet, and his
ideas received a certain French colouring which characterized
them to the last. In order to console his mother, who felt
her loss keenly, he indited verses A Carlo Imbonati. These
verses are strongly reminiscent of Petrarch, and the sentiments
which they express are conveyed in the familiar forms of a
vision and a dialogue. Though of an elevated tone, they are
without the note afterwards so distinctive of his art religious-
ness. In 1809 he printed a mythological poem Urania, having
for its motif 'the ministry of poetry as a civilizing and reform-
ing agent. The critics of the day were not slow to belaud
these attempts. Monti is said to have observed, in reference
to Manzoni, ' I should like to end as this stripling has begun' ;
while Foscolo did him the honour to insert some lines of the
ode to Imbonati in his notes on / Sepolcri.
In spite of this flattery the time was almost come for
Manzoni to quit the ranks of the classicists. The mythology
which entered so largely into their method he began to feel
as irksome and unreal, to use his own expression, it was
' absolutely devoid of interest'; and in a letter dated the 6th of
September, 1809, ne wrote to Fouriel promising to make no
more verses of the sort. Already, in 1808, he had married
a perfect ideal of womanhood, the daughter of a rich Pro-
testant banker ; and her conversion to Catholicism was soon
followed by that of her husband, who had been to a great
extent a freethinker. The gain to literature from this event
was a series of sublime Inni in honour of the great Christian
festivals LaResurrezione, II Nome di Maria, IlNatale, LaPas-
sione, and lastly, born as it were out of due time, La Pentecoste.
At the time of their first publication, which was the year 1815,
154 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
the Inni were received rather coldly, but this indifference was
replaced, as their merits were more clearly recognized, by
a crescendo of admiration. His Osservazioni sulla Morale.
Cattolica, written in answer to Sismondi and published in
1819, is a torso which he wanted either the leisure or the
inclination to complete.
Meanwhile, as a romanticist, Manzoni had not been idle.
Before essaying anything original, he conscientiously pre-
pared himself for his mission by an elaborate study of
mediaeval history, with the double object of appropriating its
treasures and drinking in its spirit. The fruits of his labour
were mainly these : // Conte di Carmagnola, a tragedy pub-
lished in 1820, Adelchi, also a tragedy, published in 1822,
and the celebrated historical novel, / Promessi Sposi, begun
in 1821 and published by instalments between 1824 and
1827. All three works were commended by Goethe, then in
the plenitude of his fame. His judgment on I Promessi Sposi
was especially gratifying. He said it was the perfection of
its kind; and Sir Walter, with more reasons for being
reserved, placed it in point of excellence before any of his
own novels. It was generous estimate too generous perhaps
for later criticism to endorse. A number of smaller works
issued from Manzoni's pen at this time. Such were the
revolutionary ode Cinque Maggio, written in 1821, but not
published till 1848: a magnificent ode on the death of
Napoleon, published in 1822 and adequately rendered by
Goethe himself into German : and two letters, to Chauvet
and the Marchese Cesare d'Azeglio respectively, on Roman-
ticism. In 1827 he stayed for some months at Florence,
where he was received with great distinction by the Grand-
duke Leopold and formed the acquaintance of Leopardi.
His visit, however, was dictated by a practical motive. Him-
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. 155
self a Lombard, he wished to give impartial consideration to
the question of language which had been so long a subject
of dispute to his countrymen, and to which henceforth his
attention was chiefly directed. His ultimate conclusion was
that in the interests of Italian literature the Tuscan dialect
must prevail. In 1845 he addressed a letter on the subject
to Giacinto Carrena, and in 1868 appeared a full and final
exposition of his theory in his report DelV Unita della Lingua
e de Mezzi di diffonderla, which he drew up at the request of
the Minister, Emilio Broglio.
In the sphere of creative art, Manzoni closed his career
with / Promessi Sposi, which he re -published purged of
Lombardisms in 1840. With it was printed an historical
notice entitled Storia della Colonne Infame. As Manzoni' s
great novel had been styled Storia Milanese Scoperta e Rifatta,
many expected in the sequel a new work of fiction. Bitter,
therefore, was the disappointment when it was found to be
a dry recital, larded with original documents and interesting
only to professed students. In 1833 Manzoni lost his wife,
and in 1834 his eldest daughter Giulia. Although on the
advice of his friends he married again, it is scarcely a fanciful
thought that it was these dolorous bereavements that robbed
him of his inspiration. He survived, however, for forty years,
dying at last of inflammation of the brain in his native Milan.
Having thus indicated the main divisions of Manzoni's
life and the order of his works, it will be proper to examine
the latter a little more in detail. With regard to his juvenile
poems, it is unnecessary to add anything to what has already
been said. The Inni present that union of grandeur and
simplicity implied by the epithet ' sublime/ They are full of
the loftiest symbolism. The idea, for instance, shadowed
forth in // Natale is Christian democracy the equality of all
156 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
in the sight of God ; and again in La Resurrezione he typifies
the triumph of innocence over oppression. In his lyrics also
Manzoni is the champion of a transcendental morality. In-
justice and tyranny are revolting to him, being contraventions
of the divine appointment whereby all men are brothers. In
// Conte di Carmagnola the theme is internal discord issuing
in thraldom, and A dele hi contains a fresh dissuasion against
oppression, on the ground that the sins of the fathers are
visited on the children. He also admonishes his countrymen
that it is futile to look for deliverance by the foreigner.
All or most of these ideas are pourtrayed over again on
the larger canvas of I Promessi Sposi, with the added thought
of Christian forgiveness. This novel is a splendid master-
piece, remarkable both for nobility of sentiment and pro-
fusion of detail. But it suffers from excessive ideality.
It is in truth a kind of monochrome. The characters,
where they are not stagey unrealities, are so many disguises of
the author. The same accusation touches, of course, Milton
and Byron. Even the Satan of Paradise Lost is but a fallen
Milton, while Byron, in his various parts as Don Juan, Childe
Harold, and the Giaour, is a very Proteus in verse. But there
is yet another consideration. Manzoni is a greater Soave, and
never for a moment loses sight of his moral. The result is
seen in his character-drawing. Fra Cristoforo and the
Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, we feel, are scarcely flesh and
blood or, if they are, they are ' men with growing wings/ not
likenesses of ourselves; while Don Rodrigo is so arrant a
villain that it is to be hoped, for the credit of humanity, that
he does not belong to the category of real existences. With
the minor personages it is different. Some of tjiem are
extremely life-like. Agnese and her gossip, in particular, are
excellent portraiture. The story has been sometimes blamed
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. 157
for its digressions the account of the plague, the garden-
scene, &c. Technically these may be faults, but he would
be a bold critic who should propose to expunge descriptions
wrought with such pleasing pre-Raffaelite distinctness.
Singularly enough Manzoni himself, unmoved by the
benediction of the great Goethe, fell foul of his own off-
spring. Just as he had renounced Monti and mythology, so
now he abjured the historical novel, which he pronounced an
impossible hybrid confounding the properties of history and
fiction. These, he maintained, could only co-exist in the
popular legend. Whatever may be thought of Manzoni' s
doctrine, he at least was loyal to it. / Promessi Sposi was
the alpha and omega of his works of fiction.
Although Manzoni was its most eminent exponent, he can-
not with any truth be termed the apostle of Romanticism, even
as regards Italy. The first to set it forth was Giovanni
Berchet in his Lettera semiseria di Grisostomo sul Cacciatore
Feroce e sulla Eleonora, published in 1816. Nor again was
/ Promessi Sposi the first historical romance. That honour
must be assigned to // Castello di Trezzo, a work of G. B.
Bazzoni (1803-1850), who afterwards produced II Falco della
Rupe, in which it is easy to trace the influence of Manzoni.
An avowed imitation is La Monaca di Monza, being a
continuation of / Promessi Sposi. This daring feat was
attempted in the year 1828 by Giovanni Rosini (1776-1855),
a professor in the University of Pisa, and it is undeniable that
he achieved considerable success. The numerous editions
of his work attest its popularity, for even to this day it has
not ceased to be read. Rosini dealt with the artistic and
literary side of Italian life, and his delineations display some
skill. They are burdened, however, by a load of erudition
and interspersed with wearisome digressions.
158 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
One of the most worthy and accomplished of Manzoni's
followers was his son-in-law, Massimo Zaparelli d'Azeglio
(1798-1866). He was not only an author, but an artist and
a soldier. He was also a prominent politician and promoted
the liberation of Italy by his writings. His novels are La
Disfida di Barletta ; Niccolo de' Lapi, treating of the siege of
Florence and, more celebrated than either, Fanfulla. This
last is a sort of popular Don Quixote. As a writer D'Azeglio
is eminently temperate, and is at his best in description. He
was not a profound thinker, nor, to judge from his writings,
was he over-stocked with historical information, but his tales
show good sense, imagination, and facility of execution.
More dramatic as a writer and vehement as a man,
Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi (1804-1873) exposed him-
self to the utmost fury of the storm, endured imprisonment
and exile, in defence of his cherished principles, democracy
and Italian independence. He wrote a variety of works of
fiction, of which the most notable are La Battaglia di Bene-
ventO) published in 1827, L' Assedio di Ftrenze, which is his
masterpiece, Veronica Cybo, Isabella Orsini^ and Beatrice
Cenci. Guerrazzi is remarkable for the uncompromising
tone, the ferocity of his writings. To tell the truth, this is
considerably overdone, and the absence of softer effects is
largely accountable for the oblivion which has so swiftly
overtaken them. In addition to his novels Guerrazzi pro-
duced several works of a nature more strictly historical :
such as Pasquale Paoli, Francesco Ferrucio, Andrea Doria.
His best composition // Secolo che muore was published after
All these writers, not excepting Manzoni, were of the
liberal school, but conservatism also had its representatives
in fiction notably Padre Antonio Bresciani (1708-1862),
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. 159
well known as a contributor to La Civilta Cattolica. Bres-
ciani, it should be said, was a linguist and antiquary as well as
a novelist. His best romance is L' Ebreo di Verona, which,
though not very happily designed, is in high esteem for its
vivid descriptions and the beauty of the style. It would be
clearly impossible to mention all the writers who are to-day
carrying on the traditions of Manzoni, and to single out one
or two would be invidious. If, however, exception is to be
made, it must be in favour of Edmondo de Amicis, a dis-
tinguished contemporary litterateur, who was born in 1846
and is still therefore in his prime. His fame depends prin-
cipally on his sketches of military life, but he is equally at
home in works of travel, history, biography, and the society
novel. De Amicis' chief faculty is observation, but he is
incurably superficial, and this grave fault endangers the per-
manence of his reputation. It is noticeable that De Amicis
as a young man was personally known to Manzoni, and the
latter, recognizing his talents, gave him his warm support
Romantic literature, however, was not confined to the prose
novel. There was also the tale in verse and the romanza or
romantic lyric, derived, like the novel, from the bosom of the
middle ages and designed to illuminate and instruct. The
whole of this literature was so clearly dominated by Manzoni
that it has been named after him Manzonian ; and the
leaders of the school, Giovanni Torti, Tommasso Grossi,
/Giovanni Berchet, Samuele Biava, Silvio Pellico, were
his intimate friends.
Torti, the eldest of them (1788-1854), was more of a
critic than a poet. He won his spurs by his Epistola sui
Sepolcri del Foscolo e del Pindemonti, published in 1808, and
ten years later appeared his Sermoni sulla Poesia, an ex-
1 60 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
position and defence of romanticism. His poem Scetticismo
e Fede is a metrical discourse on religion, not altogether un-
like Wordsworth's Excursion. The central figure in it is an
old peasant woman, to whom Christianity is all in all. Torti,
though a good, was not a voluminous writer ; his verses were
described by Manzoni as 'pochi e valenti' ' few and full of
Gross! (1791-1853) was not only a friend of Manzoni,
but actually resided for fifteen years in his house. A curious
fact connected with him was his abdication of literature, when
he had already achieved his success in it, and his adoption
of the unambitious life of a notary. This conduct was not
so irrational as might at first appear, being accompanied by
the solid rewards of a well-filled coffer and domestic felicity.
Here it will only be necessary to dwell on the earlier and
more brilliant portion of his career. Grossi made his debut
with La Prineide, a satire in the dialect of Milan, which got
him into trouble with the Government. This was in the year
1815. His next work was a romance, La Fuggitiva.
originally in the same dialect, and afterwards transformed
into literary Italian. In 1820 he published a tale, Ildegonda,
relating to the times of the second Lombard league, and
written in ottava rima. Another poem in fifteen cantos, 1
Lombardi alia Prima Crociata, appeared in 1826. This was
also in ottava rima, of which Grossi had a great mastery.
Excellent as this poem is in the descriptive passages, Grossi
unquestionably errs by conforming too closely to historical
realities. Thus it is that the glamour with which Tasso
invested his incomparably greater work is wholly wanting
to / Lombardi. In 1834 Grossi gave to the world an
historical novel, Marco Visconti, a manifest copy of /
Promessi Sposi, and dedicated to Manzoni. Lastly, in
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. l6l
1837, he produced a poetical romance Ulrica e Lida.
Without entering upon details it may be observed that the
burden in all these works is the same disappointment
Ildegonda had a rival in La Pia de Tolomei, the work of
a Tuscan improvisator e, Bartolomeo Sestini.
Berchet, already mentioned as the author of perhaps the
first historical novel written in Italian, composed also odes
and romances which earned for him the name of the Italian
Tyrtaeus. Especially noticeable is the romance entitled
/ Profughi di Parga, a record of English perfidy and Eng-
lish generosity, and Fantasia, the most beautiful of all his
compositions. It is a matter for regret that Berchet, despite
his prolific imagination and virile thought, possessed such
a feeble sense of poetic form. But for this he might have
attained to considerably higher rank. He was a diligent
translator of German and English poetry.
Sanmele Biava (1792-1870) is best known by his
Melodie Liriche, published in 1820, and his versions of the
. Canticles and Psalms.
Silvio Pellico (178^-1854) first sprang into notice
through his tragedies, one of which, Francesca da Rimini,
was translated by Byron ; but he gained a wider and more
lasting reputation by Le Mie Prigioni, an autobiography.
In 1820 he had been implicated in the doings of the
Carbonari, and on the suppression of their conspiracy by
the Austrians was committed to the fortress of Spielberg,
where he lay for ten years. Le Mie Prigioni, which was
published in 1832, is the transcript of his experiences. The
work became popular and has been translated into all the
languages of Europe, an honour which it well deserves. In
1834 Pellico put forth a manual of moral philosophy, entitled
1 62 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
Doveri degli Uomini. There is no real divorce between the
two works, for, though the former is necessarily the more
pictorial, yet both breathe a severe and lofty enthusiasm and
are marked by simplicity and candour. The same qualities
distinguish his Epistolario. In conjunction with Le Mie
Prigioni should be read the Addizioni of Piero Maroncelli
and Adryane's Me'moires dun Prisonnier. The Memorie e
Lettere of Federico Confalonieri, which were published in
1891, are probably the latest addition to this class of writing,
the author being one of those singularly pure and heroic
characters which adorn an otherwise gloomy page of Italian
Gaol literature, however, has only an incidental connexion
with romance. To conclude what is fitting to be said
on the latter subject : Cesare Cantu, who was born in
1805 and still survives in a revered old age, published in
1826 a tale in ottava rima, consisting of four cantos, and
entitled Algiso o la Lega Lombarda. In 1831 he produced
a commentary on / Promessi Sposi, which he called La
Lombardia ml Secolo XVII. Two years later interference
in politics led to his incarceration. During his twelve
months' seclusion he worked at an historical novel, Margherita
Pusterla, which recalls in many of its particulars / Promessi
Sposi and contains in Bonvicino a replica as it were of Padre
Cristoforo. Owing to difficulties with the Austrian censor
who perceived its application, it was five years before the tale
could emerge from obscurity. Finally, Giulio Carcano
(1812-1884) wrote some admirable stories (of \vhichAngiota
Maria is the most popular), sundry poems, and the best
translation of Shakespeare.
Giacomo Leopardi, in all but genius the very antilogy
of Manzoni, was born in the year 1798, at Recanati.
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. 163
His father Monaldo, a gentleman of the old school,
was a man of talent and culture, writing, in addition to
Dialogetti on current politics, an autobiography, which has
since been re-published. The eldest of the family, Giacomo,
a sickly precocious boy, spent most of his time in the
seclusion of a well-stocked library. This habit of poring
over books, acting on a feeble constitution, made him
round-shouldered, indeed, a humpback: and when in after
years he mingled in society and realized the full extent
of his deformity, the thought of it ate into his mind like
a cancer, poisoning the springs of happiness and making his
domestication in the world impossible. In the chorus of
universal nature he was 'a jarring and a dissonant thing/
and his singing was an everlasting Woe ! True, there was
pessimism before Leopardi. The sad undertone which
pervades the glorious poesy of Greece, with its mournful
insistence on the brief and trivial life of man, his fading joys
and the growing shadow of a stern resistless Fate what is
this but pessimism ? And in Italy Foscolo had already
defined the anguish of a soul intense in its aspirations, but
hidebound by circumstance. Indeed, the flower of the race
has a constant temptation to repine in the disproportion of
life to genius. It has been reserved, however, for the German
Schopenhauer to condense these humours into a philosophy.
As for Leopardi, his distinction, his dire necessity, is to
have symbolized, to have lived pessimism. He commenced
author in 1812 with a tragedy in three acts, to which he gave
the name of Pompeo in Egitto. This was followed in 1814
by a little treatise Deglt Errori popolari degli Antichi, and
after an interval of two more years he wrote a poem in
terza rima, bearing the significant title Appressamento della
Morte. It is noticeable that up to this time he was still
164 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
accessible to the consolations of religion, though tasting in
anticipation all the bitterness of a premature death and the
attendant loss of fame. Leopardi' s Italian studies especially
the Trionfi of Petrarch and the Divine Comedy manifest
themselves not only in the form of the poem, but in its tone
and substance. His angel appears to warn him of his
approaching end, and the figures of Love, Error, Avarice,
War, Oblivion, typify the unworth of the world ; while in the
background a company of blessed spirits, David and Alighieri,
Petrarch and Tasso, Christ and Mary, cheer him with the
hope of an everlasting to be.
Towards the close of the same year 1816 in which this
threnody was composed, Leopardi met with a misfortune,
which left a painful impression and confirmed him in the
melancholy to which he was naturally prone. He fell in
love with Giovanna Cassi, a cousin of his father, but
lacked courage for an avowal. Judging from his subsequent
failures, it is unlikely that he would have succeeded, and in
that respect his silence was immaterial. The pang, however,
remained, and his feelings as influenced by this event are
touchingly portrayed in two elegies, in one of which he
describes himself in concentric phrase as a pianger nato.
Leopardi, like all poets, was very susceptible to feminine
charm, but invariably, owing to his personal defects, his
affections went unrequited, than which it is hard to conceive
a more cruel dispensation. In these his early days he
used to watch through his window the peasant girls in the
neighbouring houses, and rave about them in amatory verse,
but there the thing ended ; and in later life he succumbed to
the fascinations of several ladies, whose identity is in no
Meanwhile Leopardi was pursuing a brilliant career in
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. 165
letters. He contributed to the Spettatore, a Milan magazine,
some essays in translation, a hymn to Neptune he professed
to have rendered from the Greek, and two original Greek
odes, which, Chatterton-like, he put off on Anacreon. In
1818 he published two canzonets, Italia and Monumento di
Dante in Firenze. This he dedicated to Monti, who, in
reply, expressed his joy at ' seeing a new star arise in our
Parnassus/ Like Goethe in similar case, Leopardi burned
to escape from the narrow orbit of municipal Recanati.
Beyond the mountains he thought he could breathe freely,
and fulfil the high destiny to which he felt himself called.
At length the opportunity came. He found himself in the
gay society of Rome. But here also he was out of his
element, being disgusted with the frivolous people who
crowded the assemblies. As some compensation he made
the acquaintance of Niebuhr and other distinguished
foreigners, by whom his great abilities were duly appreciated.
In 1824 he returned to his native place, and published a
collected edition of his poems, together with a dissertation in
which he defended himself from anticipated criticisms on the
score of language. His subsequent efforts were a Martirio
dei Santi Padri in the style of the Trecentists ; an Interpreta-
zione delle Rime del Petrarca, in which he confines himself to
the humble task of expounding the significance of the words ;
a portion of his Operette Morali; a Crestomazia Italiana
compiled for the practical object of the improvement of
style ; and a new edition of his Canti, dedicated to his friends
Looking at the matter from the common standpoint,
Leopardi had been deplorably unsuccessful. What with his
ill-health and blind devotion to his studies, he had shown
small aptitude for taking care of himself, and had been
1 66 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
driven on more than one occasion to seek the shelter of the
paternal roof. During the last four years of his life, however,
Leopardi was destined to see some gleams of sunshine. In
1830, when at Florence, he had come to know Antonio
Ranieri, a Neapolitan scholar, who, compassionating his
misery, took him into his home. There he received every
attention from Ranieri himself and his amiable sister, and
there, in the arms of his friend, the unfortunate poet expired
on the 1 4th of June, 1837, having added to his list two last
works, Pensieri and Paralipomeni alia Batracomiomachia.
Although Leopardi himself always strenuously denied that
his opinions were formed from personal considerations, this
is scarcely the view of his biographers. The full horror of
the case did not burst upon him at once. In his lyrical
poems especially it is possible to mark three stages of
ever-deepening gloom. In his earliest compositions, whilst
recognizing the unsatisfactoriness of things, he is disposed to
attribute it to accident, to the degeneracy of the human race,
the frauds of civilization, &c. Then, advancing a step, he
fixes the blame on human nature itself, which is so con-
stituted that it can never attain happiness. In the last place
he paints in terrible colours Woe itself, and hurls bitter gibes
against God and Nature as the authors of it. As has been
observed, pessimism with Leopardi is a habit of mind, a
sentiment, not an ordered system of thought. Even in his
prose works, his Operette Morali, he shows himself no dry
philosopher. The forms which he employs vary from dia-
logue to myth, from allegory to satire, but he is always
terribly in earnest. He opens every little scratch, and probes,
if he does not poison, the wounds of suffering humanity.
Yet in all this he is the reverse of a fanatic. He argues
dexterously, in the finest of literary styles.
XII.] ROMANTICISM AND PESSIMISM. 167
Leopard! is, indeed, the first modern Italian classic : no
such prose as his has been written since the cinquecento.
As a thinker, he may be named with Vico and Bruno.
Leopardi's works are so numerous that they cannot here be
studied in detail. One of the most notable is his Paralipo-
meni alia Batracomiomachia^ a poem consisting of eight cantos
in ottava rima. As the name implies it is based on the old
pseudo-Homeric poem, of which Leopardi seems to have been
especially fond, and of which he had already produced two
versions in sextains. The work is a political satire dealing
with events in Naples between 1815 and 1821 ; and Leopardi,
as usual, is a very Ishmael, attacking both the reactionaries
and the liberals, the latter indeed with peculiar keenness,
because of their foolish confidence. Lastly, Leopardi was
distinguished as a translator. Besides his verse renderings,
which were chiefly juvenile essays, he did into Italian parts
of Xenophon, Isocrates, Epictetus, &c. ; and his correspon-
dence, though often necessarily sad, is full of interest for
those who would know the man.
FROM 1830 to 1860 the general characteristic of Italian
literature, however diversified in other respects, was its sub-
servience to politics. A recent writer has classified the pro-
ductions of the age on this basis, pointing out the effects
of the various forms of government Austrian rule, Papal
influence, and Bourbon tyranny on authorship in their
respective spheres. Here it will be convenient to adopt
another method of classification, and to regard the various
works from a purely literary point of view. Romance,
radiating from Milan, has been already dealt with. Satire
and dialectal poetry had also its votaries. Of these the
most famous, at any rate at Milan, was Carlo Porta (1776-
"1821), a friend of Manzoni. His example was followed
by a Roman, Giuseppe Giaocchino Belli (1791-1863),
who, admirable alike for his wit and command of dialect,
directed his keen and strongly sped shafts at the Papacy ;
while Angelo Brofierio, an advocate and the author of
dramatic and historical compositions, won a wide popularity .
by his Stella del Piemount, written in the speech of that
province. In Tuscany Antonio Guadagnoli (1798-1858),
a native of Arezzo, indulged his wit at the expense of the
great ones of the earth, and his humour, being without
malice, was much appreciated.
THE EPILOGUE. 169
Guadagnoli, however, was completely cast into the shade
by that most versatile and prolific of authors, Giuseppe Giusti
(1809-1850). After, an elaborate education, of which the
last years were passed in the University of Pisa, Giusti
threw himself into literature, commencing with GuiglioUina
a Vapore, which was levelled at the bigot Duke of Modena.
This was followed, on the occasion of the death of Francis I
of Austria, by Dies Irae, and afterwards by Lo Stivale,
a farcical history of Italy under the similitude of a boot. A
succession of works of the most various character provided
him with occupation during the remainder of his compara-
tively short life. In Re Travicello he pilloried Leopold II ;
in Terra de Morti, wielding a two-edged sword, he struck, on
the one hand, at Lamartine for his insolent allusions to Italy ;
on the other, at his own countrymen for their feebleness
and corruption. Preterito piu che Perfetto del Verbo Pensare,
II Balk, and Brindisi are writings pointed especially at the
aristocracy, those effete and pleasure-loving nobles, whose
tameness and submission riveted the yoke of foreign
But Giusti had no class prejudices. Each section of the
community in its turn was made to wince under his powerful
lash. The tradesfolk with their base covetous propensities
were badly hit in La Vestizione and La Scritta. In other
works he took up his parable against time-servers and place-
hunters and political quacks. On the accession of Pius IX
to the chair of St. Peter, Giusti, conceiving high hopes for
the future of his country, gave expression to his feelings in
some exquisite odes Sant' Ambrogio, Guerra, Rassegnazione.
In Discorsi che corrono^ Storia Contemporanea^ Congresso dei
Birri, he makes war on the reactionary party ; in Spettri del
4 Settembre and Instruzioni ad un Emissario is revealed his
170 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
distrust of demagogues and the wily supporters of Austria.
His Ode a Leopoldo is a recantation, wherein he commends
the Emperor for his liberalism. Liberalism, however, as
Giusti discovered, has its weak as well as its strong side, and
his sonnets, I Piu tirano i Meno, Maggiorita, Arruffapopoli,
testify to his dislike of the noisy and inexperienced politi-
cians deputies, journalists, and others who were springing
into notoriety. With all his passion for liberty Giusti had no
love for republicanism, and his avoidance of extremes was
productive of no small inconvenience to him. But it was
not fated that he should live long in a world which, for
him, was evidently out of joint. He died, after a protracted
illness, from the bursting of a blood-vessel, March 31, 1850.
Giusti did not belong to any particular school. He held
equally aloof from a cold forbidding classicism and a reck-
lessly innovating romanticism. He borrowed some hints
from Beranger, but the development of his ideas appears to
have proceeded from factors in his own experience. Of
this a good account is given in L'Origine degli Scherzi, from
which it would seem that he began life as a follower of
Petrarch, belando d' amore ; but he suffered a rude awakening
from these dreams when he perceived that the world was
full ofpagk'acctj men of straw, superficial and glozing hypo-
crites. His first sensation was that of horror ; afterwards
' wrath, sorrow, amazement was dissolved in laughter/ From
what he says however elsewhere, the laughter was only
apparent, while the grief which it served to mask was genuine
and sincere. Giusti was anything but a vulgar satirist. As
a rule he carefully eschewed personalities ; if it happened to
him to be overtaken by a fault, he repented in sackcloth and
ashes. The lyrical element in his being, though under some
restraint, finds expression in such odes as AW Arnica lontana^
XIII.] THE EPILOGUE. 17 1
Fiducia in Dzo, Ad una Giovinetta, &c. Giusti was also
interested in philology, and made a collection of Tuscan
proverbs ; and he was an enthusiastic lover of Virgil, Dante,
The period comprised between 1830 and 1870 was ex-
ceedingly prolific in poets, of whom little more than a bare
'list can be here given. One school, whose headquarters
were in Umbria, Romagna, and Le Marche, followed the
lead of Leopardi in regard to purity of language and
elegance of style. Giovanni Marchetti (1790-1852) is
celebrated as the author of Una Notte di Dante, a short but
exquisite poem in terza rima, describing a famous episode,
Dante's arrival at the monastery of Fonte Avellana.
Terenzio Mamiani (1799-1885) composed Inni Sacri,
treating of the lives of the saints and written in blank verse ;
and Idittj\ a medley of stories and sketches, in various
metres. Another disciple of Leopardi was Agostino Cagnoli
of Reggio d' Emilia (1810-1846). In his Scala di Vita,
Ii. Grisostomo Ferrucci (1797-1877) sought to rival the
grandeurs of the Divine Comedy. Being such an ambitious
attempt it was but natural that there should be differences
of opinion respecting it, but the poem is now in a fair way
to be forgotten. A kinswoman of Grisostomo, Caterina
Franeeschi Ferrucci (1803-1887), was an ardent educa-
tionalist and a poetess of no mean order. Belonging to the
Roman branch of the classical school were the brothers
Giambattista and Giuseppe Maccari (1832-1868), idyllists,
and Francesco Massi, author of lyrical, satirical, and epic
verses. Midway between the classicists and romanticists
must be placed Antonio Peretti of Castelnuovo (1815
1858), at first court-poet of the Duke of Modena, and then
exile for love of country. At Camposanto, near Modena,
172 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
was born towards the end of the last century Pietro Gian-
none, the poet of the Carboneria and a conspirator of the
deepest dye. His chief works were La Repubblica, which he
dedicated to Giusti and L* Esule^ wherein he sets forth the
manners and morals of his sect. He died in 1872.
The most notable poet in southern Italy was Gabriele
Kossetti (1783-1854), who, unable to accept the condi-
tions on which alone life could be lived at Naples, removed
to London, where he held a chair of Italian Literature. In
his adopted country he published political and other verses,
the greatest of his compositions being Iddio e I'Uomo, II
Veggente in Solitudine and L'Arpa Evangelica. The last
was written as a solace for. his blindness. . Rossetti had
strong notions about the Papacy, and wrote several treatises,
in which he laboured to prove that Dante and all the poets
of the middle ages hated Rome, and that their writings
are so many adumbrations of this hate. To-day Rossetti
is remembered more for his noble personal life than
his poetical achievements, but the name has been ren-
dered imperishable by the triumphs of his richly gifted
children. The neighbourhood of Trent produced a notable
poet styled by Carducci ' the last of the troubadours ' in
Giovanni Prati (1815-1884), who, at the age of twenty-six,
drew attention to himself by his Ermenegarda, a tale in
blank verse. His writings consist mainly of ballads, religious
verses, patriotic and satirico-allegorical compositions, and
a philosophic poem. The last is entitled Armanda, and its
subject is scepticism, which it confutes. Finally he published
two volumes, hide and Psyche, embodying in a series of lyrics,
as the result of introspection, the history of his own soul.
The most eminent poets of the Venetian school were
Piccolo Tommaseo of Sebenico (1802-1874), Francesco
XIII.] THE EPILOGUE. 173
dall' Ongaro (1808-1874), Aleardo Aleardi of Verona
(1812-1878), and Giacomo Zanella (1820-1888). Tom-
inaseo was at once philosopher, critic, and philologer;
and he has left behind him works illustrative of all his
studies. As might be expected in the case of so many-
sided a writer, his verse is not remarkable for its bulk.
What there is of it is romantic in spirit and classical in style.
Francesco dall' Ongaro was professor of dramatic literature
at Florence and Naples. The most popular of his works is
/ Stornelli. Aleardo Aleardi is not one of the elect whose
writings are destined to be immortal, but 77 Monte Circello,
Le Prime Storie, Lettere a Maria, and / Sette Soldati were
once widely read. Giacomo Zanella, a priest, was a minor
Leopardi. His verses bear witness to a conflict between
faith and reason, revelation and science, but the issue in his
case was the triumph of religion. Zanella's forte was lyrical
poetry, and his best odes will remain landmarks in the art.
He showed considerable talent in other directions also, and
was a specially good translator of English poetry.
In Tuscany Luigi Venturi (1812-1890) gave Italian
renderings of the Hymns of the Church ; and his master-
piece EUomo is a set of poems drawn from Biblical narra-
tives and designed to illustrate the inequalities of fortune.
The greatest of Italian lyrists now living is, undoubtedly,
Giosue Carducci, born in 1836 at Valdicastello near Pietra-
santa. In the preface to his Poesie he gives a sketch of
himself down to the year 1871 : ' I set out, and I congratulate
myself upon it, with Alfieri, Parini, Monti, Foscolo, Leopardi \
through them and with them I went back to the ancients,
held converse with Dante and Petrarch; and on them I still
fixed my eye, even in my travels through foreign literature/
And he goes on to say, ' In Juvenilia I am the squire of the
174 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
classics; in Levia Grama I keep watch under arms; in
Decennali, after the first strokes of my lance which were
a little conventional and uncertain, I enter upon adventures
entirely at my own risk and peril/ After 1871 Carducci
appeared in a new character, as a satirist ; and in his latest
manner -poesia barbara he calls it he bids adieu to
rhyme, and takes for pattern the elegy and ode of the ancients.
Carducci is strong also in the field of criticism. He has
written and published elaborate studies of Italian Literature
in its varied phases ; and his influence has been far-reaching.
English poetry, especially as incarnate in Mr. Swinburne, is
signally indebted to Carducci.
In tragedy the greatest name in the first half of the
century is Giovambattista iNiccolini (1782-1861). He was
born of Florentine parents at I Bagni di Re, and at the age
of one-and-twenty formed a close friendship with Ugo
Foscolo, to whom he dedicated La Chioma di Berenice. His
earliest essays consisted in free translations of Aeschylus ;
and Matilde and Beatrice Cenci were inspired by his English
studies. Niccolini was one of those who will not allow that
there is any generic difference between the ancient and
modern drama; and he sought to show how the charac-
teristics of both might be combined. Almost all his works
have a political scope. The real subject of Nabucco is the
fall of Napoleon, while Giovanni da Procida and Ludovico
Sforza are intended to subserve the unity and independence
of Italy. Arnaldo da Brescia is the most effective blow ever
dealt at the Papacy by an Italian pen. Niccolini, without
departing from his classical models, improved on them by
the variety of his treatment and his fidelity to historic truth.
Yet he is by no means perfect. He tends to be lyrical,
declamatory; and his knowledge of the human heart is
XIII.] THE EPILOGUE. 175
decidedly circumscribed. In addition to his dramas Niccolini
wrote a long series of poems, and he was the author of two
not very successful histories, Vespro Siciliano and Storia della
Casa Sueva in Italia. Apart from Niccolini, tragedy at this
time can boast of few names of any importance. Fran-
cesco Benedetti (1785-1 821) continued the tradition of Alfieri,
basing his plays for the most part on Roman history. Carlo
Marenco (1800-1846), on the other hand, resorted to the
middle ages for his subjects, which he dealt with in
a romantic spirit. His best dramas are Buondelmonte, La Pia
and Arnaldo da Brescia. Pietro Cossa (1830-1881), a native
of Rome, showed considerable skill in portraying historic
personages, such as they may be conceived to have been.
His Messalina is a notable success in this way, but his
writings distinctly lack form.
In comedy Goldoni's influence continued to prevail ; and
Giovanni Giraud, a Roman (1776-1834), hit the public
taste very palpably with his Don Desiderio and Aio neU
Imbarazzo. Alberto Wota of Torino (1775-1847) was also
a favourite in his day, but his plays are never likely to be
revived, as they are too general and deficient in warmth and
colour. Tommaso Gherardi (1815-1881) wrote numerous
comedies which are alike spirited and natural : // Regno
Adelaide, II Padiglione delle Mortelle, II Vero JB las one, &c.
Vincenzo Martini was the author of La Donna di 40 Anni
and // Cavaliere d 1 Industria ; and in the Florentine dialect
were written the very witty Ciane of the Abate G. B. Zannoni
(1774-1832). No one perhaps possessed a fuller acquaint-
ance with historical subjects than Paolo Giacometti (1817-
1882) ; and he also wrote plays. The latter are chiefly of the
class known as a tesi, composed, that is to say, for a special
purpose, the discussion of a social problem or the enforcement
176 ITALIAN LITERATURE. [Ch.
of a moral: and the situations are in general rather forced.
Nevertheless some of his comedies (// Poeta e la Balleria, for
instance) are still esteemed. The most conspicuous figure,
however, in comedy during the last half-century is, beyond
question, Paolo Ferrari of Modena (1822-1889). ^ e
devoted himself partly to historic comedy, of which Goldoni
e le sue Sedici Commedie and Parini e la Satira may be taken
as samples ; partly to the commedia a tesi, in which he was
fairly successful, depicting with tact and knowledge the
foibles of modern society, but over-loading his pages with
reflexions, and his countrymen say that his dialogue is not
superfine Italian. After a period of neglect the melodrama
was raised from its low estate -as a mere adjunct of the music
to something resembling its former glory by Felice Romani
of Genoa (1788-1865), a friend of Bellini and Bonizetti.
Turning to prose authors other than writers of fiction, the
most illustrious in the first half of the century is the Conte
Cesare Balbo (1789-1853). Although he experimented
with various kinds of writing, tales and tragedy and moral
philosophy, his chief success was in history and biography.
His Storia d Italia, which professes to be a popularization of
Muratori, appeared in 1830. In 1839 he published a very
full life of Dante, which, in spite of all that has been since
written on the subject, has never been superseded. His
Meditazioni Storiche deal with the providential aspect of
history, while his Sommario delta Storia d' Italia is inspired by
a political motive. His Speranze d Italia is exclusively
political, and among other hopes which the author enter-
tained and the Crimean war was destined to disappoint, was
the fall of Turkey, which, he thought, would afford scope
for Austrian ambition in the East. Nevertheless, Italian
independence may in a sense be traced to Turkey's decrepi-
XIII.] THE EPILOGUE. 177
tude, through the accession of Sardinia to the Anglo-French
Another historian is Cesare Cantft, whose earliest effort
was a Storia di Como, published in 1829. In 1836 appeared
the first instalment of his monumental Storia Universale.
Other writings of his are Storia de* Cento Anni and E Abate
Parini e la Lombardia. Cantu is not immaculate as to
style, and he has been convicted of numerous errors in
matters of fact. Both faults, however, may be regarded as
venial in view of the hugeness of the canvas he has under-
taken to fill. Michele Amari of Palermo (1806-1889) wrote
a Storia del Vespro Siciliano, controverting the popular belief
that the famous Vespers were the result of a conspiracy ; and
a Storia dei Mussulmani in Sicilia, a record of four centuries
of Arab rule. Amari's writings are a happy blend of the old
and new methods of treating history at once artistic and
scientific, dignified and exact. Gino Capponi of Florence
(1792-1876), great as a writer, was even greater as a man.
A liberal and a Catholic, loyal, yet patriotic, he threw his
influence invariably into the scale of right. His chief work
is his Storia della Repubblica di Firenze, composed when he
was old and blind. This history took him twenty years to
complete, and, though of a popular character, met with the
approval of the critics, except in regard to the opening
chapters, which were deemed scanty and inadequate.
Luigi Carlo Farini (1812-1866) was the author of a
Storia della Stato Romano dall' Anno 1814 al 1850, and he
published two volumes of a Storia a" Italia in continuation of
that of Botta. Farini, it should be said, sympathized with the
aims of Pius IX, and sternly set his face against the prevalent
feature of the age, a rabid demagogism in politics. His
literary style is excellent. A contemporary of Farini,
J 7 8 ITALIAN LITER A TURE. [Ch.
Ferdinando Hanalli, born in 1823 and still living, has
traversed the same ground in his Storia Italiana dal 1846 al
1852 ; while in JUItaha dopo il 1859 ne nas sketched a more
recent chapter of his country's history. The principles upon
which he proceeds are explained and enforced in his Lezioni
di Storia and Ammaestramenti di Letter atur a. They consist
in adhesion to the old view of history as the handmaid of
politics and contempt for romanticist innovation. The follow-
ing writers also deserve mention : Luigi Ciampolini, author
of a Storia del Risorgimento di Grecia ; Giuseppe Manno,
author of a very excellent Storia della Sardegna ; Luigi
Cibrario (1802-1870), a distinguished critic, who, besides his
Economia Politica nel Medio-Evo, wrote two histories, that of
the city of Turin and the monarchy of Savoy ; and Ercole di
Voghera, whose Storia delle Campagnie di Ventura and
Storia della Monarchia Piedmontese are deservedly esteemed.
Atto Vannucci (1810-1883) is remembered for his Storia
dell Italia Antica, and he was the writer of a popular work
I Martiri della Independenm Italiana. The best known names
in ecclesiastical history are those of Luigi Tosti of Naples,
who was born in 1811, and Padre Alfonso Capecelatro,
born in 1824, at Marseilles. Finally, Pasquale Villari
(b. 1827) has written two valuable monographs: Storia di
Girolamo Savonarola and Niccolb Machiavelli e i suoi tempi.
The age has produced a whole crop of memoirs of which
it will, be sufficient to mention Marco Minghetti's Miei
Ricordi ; and there have been numerous works dealing with
Italian literature as a whole, and with special topics such as
Dante, which it would be irrelevant to discuss here. The
same remark will apply to technological works and treatises
on philosophy. It will be fitting to conclude this sketch by
a reference to Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), the hero of
XIII.] THE EPILOGUE. 179
giovane Italia, whose writings influenced so powerfully the
destinies of his native land. Patriot however as he was, his
aims far outreached the limits of the peninsula, and he is
a most eloquent apostle of the humanitarian idea. Dreaming
of a universal republic whose centre should be Rome, he
figured the future regime almost as a theocracy and adopted
as his watchword the chivalrous phrase Dio e popolo. Hating
utilitarianism, he exalted the conception of duty ; indeed, the
notion of conduct set forth in his tractate Doveri is strict,
even to austerity. Individualism in art and life was detestable
to him, and against it he ever waged a crusade. All his
criticisms are based on these persuasions, which permeate
and underlie his discussion of matters so rich in interest as
Dante's Love of Country, Romance, Botta, and the i D hilosophy
of Music, and Fate in Tragedy.
Page 59, line $>for Guiccardini read Guicciardini
87, 2 4, for Pecchi read Cecchi
INDEX OF WRITERS
Achillini Claudio, 100.
Adimari Ludovico, 102.
Adrian! Giovambattista, 60.
Alamanni Luigi, 76, 87, 97.
Aleardi Aleardo, 173.
Alfieri Vittorio, 43, 132, 173.
Algarotti Francesco, 122.
Alighieri Dante, i, 16-30.
Amari Michele, 177.
Ammirato Scipione, 60.
Andreini Giambattista, 104.
Antonio da Pistoia, 83.
Aretino Leonardo, 57.
Pietro, 65, 85, 88.
Argenti (degli) Agostino, 91.
Ariosto Ludovico, 50, 70, 86, 96,
Balbo Cesare, 176.
Baldi Bernardino, 97.
Bandello Matteo, 65.
Baretti Giuseppe, 124.
Bartoli Danielle, 109.
Bazzoni G. Battista, 157.
Beccari Agostino, 91.
Belcari Feo, 45.
Belli Giuseppe Giaocchino, 168.
Bembo Pietro, 38, 67, 93.
Benedetti Francesco, 175.
Bentivoglio Ercole, 96.
Guido, 1 08.
Benvenuto da Imola, 17.
Berchet Giovanni, 157, 159, 161.
Berni Francesco, 50, 74, 95.
Bertola Aurelio, 129.
Bettinelli Saverio, 123, 145.
Bianchini Francesco, 1 1 3.
Biava Samuel e, 159, 161.
Boccaccio Giovanni, 37.
Boiardo Matteo, 70, 83
Bonfadio Jacopo, 68.
Borghini Vincenzo, 89.
Botta Carlo, 143.
Bracciolini Poggio, 57, 64.
Bresciani Antonio, 158.
Brofferio Angelo, 168.
Buonagiunta di Lucca, 8.
Buonarotti Michelangelo, 94.
- The Younger, 104.
Cagnoli Agostino, 171.
Cantu Cesare, 162, 176.
Capecelatro Alfonso, 178.
Caporali Cesare, 95.
Capponi Gino, 177.
Carcano Giulio, 162.
Carducci Giosue, 173.
Caro Annibale, 62, 90.
Casa (della) Giovanni, 67, 95.
Castellani Castellano, 45.
Castelvetro Ludovico, 62.
Casti Giambattista, 129.
Castiglione Baldassare, 67, 91.
Cavalcanti Guido, 9, 10.
INDEX OF WRITERS.
Cecchi Giovan Maria, 87.
Cellini Benvenuto, 69.
Cesari Antonio, 146.
Cesarotti Melchiorre, 125.
Chiabrera Gabriello, 100.
Chiari Pietro, 118.
Ciampoli, 101, 109.
Ciampolini Luigi, 178.
Cibrario Luigi, 178.
Cicognini Andrea, 117.
Cino da Pistoia, n.
Ciullo di Alcamo, 6.
Colletta Pietro, 144.
Colonna Egidio, 11.
Colonne (dalle) Guido, 6, 7.
Compagni Dino, 15.
Confalonieri Federico, 162.
Conti Antonio, 132.
Corio Bernardino, 57.
Cossa Pietro, 175.
Costanzo (di) Angelo, 60, 109.
Crescimbeni Giovan Maria, 109.
Da Bibbiena Cardinal, 87.
Dall' Ongaro Francesco, 173.
Dante da Majano, 6, 7, 19.
Davanzati Bernardo, 01.
Davila Arrigo Caterino, 108.
D'Azeglio Massimo Zap., 158.
De Amicis Edmondo, 159.
Denina Carlo, 142.
De Rossi Bastiano, 63.
Doni Giambattista, 109.
Ercole di Voghera, 178.
Erizzo Sebastiano, 66.
Fabrizio di Bologna, 7.
Fagiuoli Giovambattista, 118.
Fantoni Giovanni, 150.
Farini Luigi Carlo, 177.
Fenaruolo Girolamo, 97
Ferrari Paolo, 175.
Ferrucci Franceschi Caterina, 171.
L. Grisostomo, 171.
Ficino Marsilio, 67.
Filicaja (da) Vincenzo, 101, 102.
Fiorentino Ser Giovanni, 41.
Firenzuola Angelo, 66.
Folcacchiero di Siena, 7.
Foscolo Ugo, 147, 173.
Francesco da Barberino, 35,
Franco Niccolo, 93.
Frederick II, 6.
Frezzi Federigo, 29.
Frugoni Carlo Inriocenzo, no.
Galeazzo di Tarsia, 93.
Gambara Veronica, 94.
Gelli Giovambattista, 66.
Gherardi Tommaso, 175.
Giacometti Paolo, 175.
Giamboni Bono, 12, 15.
Giannone Pietro. 14.
Gigli Girolamo, 118.
Giraldi Gregorio Cinzto, 66, 85,
Giraldo di Castello, 7.
Giraud Giovanni, 175.
Giusti Giuseppe, 169.
Goldoni Carlo, 43, 119, 131.
Gozzi Carlo, 120.
Gravina Vincenzo, in, 112.
Grazzini (Lasca), 61, 64, 88.
Grossi Tommaso, 160.
Guadagnoli Antonio, 168.
Guarini Giambattista, 92.
Guerrazzi Franc. Dom., 158.
Guicciardini Francesco, 58.
Guidi Alessandro, 101, 109.
Guinicelli Guido, 7.
Guittone d' Arezzo, 1 3.
Jacopo da Lentini, 6.
Jacopone (fra) da Todi, 13.
INDEX OF WRITERS.
Latino Brunette, 12, 15, 17, 20.
Lemene (di) Francesco, no.
Leopard! Giacomo, 151, 162-167.
Lippi Lorenzo, 52, 107.
Lollio Alberto, 91.
Niccolini Giovambattista, 174.
Niccolo da Correggio, 83.
Noffo di Oltrarno, 7.
Nota Alberto, 175.
Olivier! , 77.
Onesto di Bologna, 7.
Orsini Isabella, 63.
Maccari Giambattista, 171.
Machiavelli Niccolo, 55, 87, 88.
Maffei Scipione, 113, 130.
Malespini Giacchetto, 15.
Mamiani Terenzio, 171.
Manfredi Muzio, 85.
Manno Giuseppe, 178.
Manzoni Alessandro, 151-157.
Marchetti I iovanni, 171.
Marenco Carlo, 175.
Marini Giambattista, 99.
Martello Pier Jacopo, 130.
Martini Vincenzo, 175.
Massi Francesco, 171.
Mauro Giovanni, 95.
Mazzini Giuseppe, 178.
Medici Lorenzo, 45, 53.
Meli Giovanni, 137.
Menzini Benedetto, 101, 102.
Metastasio Pietro, 114.
Milizia Francesco, 127.
Minghetti Marco, 178.
Molza Francesco Maria, 65.
- Tarquinia, 94.
Monti Vincenzo, 145, 173.
Muratori Ludovico Antonio, 112,
Mussato Albertino, 44.
Muzio Girolamo, 93.
Nardi Jacopo, 59.
Nelli Pietro, 97.
Pallavicini Sforza, 101, 108.
Parabosco Girolamo, 65.
Parini Giuseppe, 126, 173.
Passeroni Gian Carlo, 129.
Pellico Silvio, 159, 161.
Peregrine Camillo, 81.
Peretti Antonio, 171.
Perticari Giulio, 147.
Petrarca Francesco, 31-37-
Piccolomini Alessandro, 89.
Pignotti Lorenzo, 129.
Pindemonti Ippolito, 150.
Poliziano Angelo, 46, 53,
Porta Carlo, 168.
Porto (da) Luigi, 65.
Porzio Camillo, 60, 142.
Prati Giovanni, 172.
Preti Girolamo, 100.
Pulci Antonia, 45.
Ranalli Ferdinando, 177.
Redi Francesco, 103.
Rinuccini Ottavio, 92.
Romani Felice, 176.
Rosa Salvatore, 102.
Roselli Alessandro, 46.
Rosini Giovanni, 157.
Rossetti Gabriele, 172.
Rucellai Giovanni, 84, 97.
Sacchetti Franco, 42.
Saladino di Pavia, 7.
Salviati Leonardo, 61, 63.
Sannazzaro Jacopo, 38, 90.
INDEX OF WRITERS.
Sarpi Paolo, 108.
Scina Domenico, 137.
Segni Bernardo, 59.
Sergardi Ludovico, 102.
Sestini Bartolomeo, 161.
Speroni Sperone, 67, 84.
Spinelli Matteo, 14.
Stampa Gaspara, 94.
Tansillo Luigi, 97.
Tasso Bernardo, 76.
Torquato, 79, 86, 105.
Tassoni Alessandro, 104, 106, in.
Tempio Domenico, 137.
Terracina Laura, 94.
Testa Arrigo, 6.
Testi Fulvio, 101.
Tommaseo Niccolo, 173.
Torti Giovanni, 159.
Tosti Luigi, 178.
Trapassi Pietro, 114.
Trissino Gian Giorgio, 76, 83, 116.
Tullia d' Aragona, 94.
Uberti (degli) Fazio, 29.
Vannucci Atto, 1 78.
Varano Alfonso, 121, 145.
Varchi Benedetto, 59.
Vasari Giorgio, 68.
Venturi Luigi, 173.
Verri Pietro, 143.
Vico Giambattista, 113.
Vigne (delle) Piero, 6.
Villani Filippo, 15, 36.
Villari Pasquale, 178.
Vinciguerra Antonio, 96.
Vitale Giuseppe, 137.
Zanella Giacomo, 173.
Zannoni G. Battista, 175.
Zappi, G. Battista, no.
Zeno Apostolo, 112, 115.
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